Google Agrees To Delete Incognito Mode Browsing Data

Google has agreed to delete private browsing data records of its “hundreds of billions” of Chrome browser users as part of a class-action lawsuit settlement that alleged it tracked people without their knowledge.

Google Agrees To Delete Incognito Mode, Browsing Data

The terms of the settlement were filed on Monday in the Oakland, California federal court and require approval from U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California.

Further, the lawsuit seeks $5 billion in damages from Google, but the tech giant is not paying any damages to its consumers as part of the settlement. However, individuals may sue the company individually for damages by filing their complaints against Google in U.S. state courts. The plaintiffs’ attorney has already filed 50 complaints in California state court with more coming in the next few months.

“This settlement is an historic step in requiring dominant technology companies to be honest in their representations to users about how the companies collect and employ user data, and to delete and remediate data collected,” lawyers for the plaintiffs said in the filing.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in June 2020 after several Google users accused the search giant of secretly collecting data from people despite setting its popular Chrome web browser to “Incognito” mode and other browsers to “private mode.” The company also didn’t properly inform users of the data it collected to measure web traffic and sell ads.

“Even when users are browsing the internet in ‘private browsing mode’, Google continues to track them. Google’s tracking occurred and continues to occur no matter how sensitive or personal users’ online activities are,” the plaintiffs said in the filing.

Under the settlement, Google will update disclosures about what it collects from users in private browsing mode. The company says it’s already working on implementing these changes. Also, it will let incognito users block third-party tracking “cookies” by default for five years.

“The result is that Google will collect less data from users’ private browsing sessions, and that Google will make less money from the data,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said the company was pleased to settle the class-action lawsuit and called it “meritless.”

“We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless. We never associate data with users when they use incognito mode. We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization,” Castaneda said in a statement.

While the preliminary settlement was reached in late December, averting a scheduled February 5, 2024 trial, final approval is slated before U.S. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California on July 30.


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