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Google will delete data collected in incognito mode to settle lawsuit

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Google has settled a class-action lawsuit related to privacy concerns in the Chrome browser’s incognito mode. In return, Google agreed to delete billions of data points alleged to have been improperly collected, update disclosures about data collection during private browsing, and allow users to disable third-party cookies in this mode.

The 2020 lawsuit accused Google of misleading users about tracking their web-browsing activities, particularly when using Chrome’s incognito mode. It has covered potentially millions of users since June 2016 and initially sought damages for privacy law violations.

The settlement, filed in San Francisco federal court, outlined the steps Google will undertake to reform its practices concerning private browsing.

Although the settlement initially does not include damages for individual users, it allows them to file claims, with 50 claims already filed in California state court, reported WSJ. This dual approach seeks to address systemic issues through class action and individual grievances related to privacy violations.

José Castañeda, Google spokesperson, expressed the company’s commitment to resolving the lawsuit, which it deemed meritless. Castañeda clarified that despite the proposed settlement’s $5 billion valuation, the class members would not receive damages directly from the settlement.

“We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalisation,” added Castañeda.

The company has been under intense scrutiny for data privacy issues.

The settlement’s impact extends beyond resolving legal challenges. It requires Google to retroactively delete valuable user data, a rare outcome in cases involving tech giants. The agreement also mandates changes to how Google discloses the limitations of its private browsing services, with ongoing efforts already initiated on the Chrome browser.

“This settlement is a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies,” said Attorney David Boies, who represented consumers in the lawsuit. 

A pivotal aspect of this settlement is Google’s five-year commitment to allowing users to block third-party cookies by default in incognito mode. This will prevent Google from tracking users across external websites while they are in private browsing.

Google has faced many lawsuits, including a class action lawsuit filed against the company for scrapping public data. About thirty-two European media companies have filed a lawsuit against Google for a whooping €2.1 billion, alleging less revenue from ads due to the supremacy of Google.

The proposed settlement highlights a broader industry trend towards enhancing privacy protection for users, with major technology companies facing increasing scrutiny over data collection and transparency.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: