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Google Announces Deletion of Incognito Tracking Records

  • Google agrees to delete billions of records and imposes restrictions to settle class action lawsuit over privacy breach allegations.
  • Settlement follows accusations of Google tracking user data in “Incognito mode”; legal battle reflects ongoing scrutiny of tech giants.

Google announced it has agreed to delete billions of records and submit to certain restrictions in an unprecedented legal settlement proposal.

This deal seeks to resolve a class action lawsuit filed in 2020 in the US that accused Google of breaching users’ privacy by collecting user data even when browsing in “Incognito mode”.

This lawsuit had asked for $5bn in damages.

Google supports this deal even while disputing any claims against it.

Already, they have implemented changes as a response to this lawsuit.

Data deletion will also apply outside of the US.

As soon as both parties announced they intended to settle the case in January, Google updated its disclosures to make clear that user data still was tracked even when searching privately or using “Incognito.” settings.

This mode can increase privacy by not saving browser activity to the machine being used.

Google Settles Lawsuit Over ‘Incognito Mode’ Tracking

Last month, Apple, Meta and Google were investigated by EU. At that same time, they announced they were starting a pilot test of a feature which automatically blocks third-party cookies that track user activity on all Google Chrome users – something other browsers do.

Shortly after filing the lawsuit in 2020, Google made that limit automatic for Incognito users and has agreed to keep that limit in place for five years as per terms of the settlement agreement filed on Monday in federal court in San Francisco.

On Monday, Google agreed to delete “hundreds of billions” of private browsing data records it had amassed since 2005, according to court filings.

“We are pleased that Google was able to agree on an amicable settlement of what it has always believed was meritless lawsuits,” Google spokesman Jorge Castaneda stated in a statement, noting that no damages would be payable by them.

“We are happy to delete old technical data which was never associated with an individual and has never been used to personalize services or content in any manner.

Google remains at risk from multiple lawsuits filed by individuals alleging violations of privacy, which could incur substantial monetary sanctions against it.

Lawyer David Boies of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP – who represented users – termed this settlement “historic.” It marked an important step toward demanding honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies.

In its lawsuit, Google had been accused of tracking users even when using Chrome browser in “Incognito” mode and other browsers in “Incognito Mode”.

Legal battle between Google and YouTube revealed documents in which employees described Incognito as being an “effectively lie” and a confusing mess, according to Monday’s court filing.

Judge Yvonne Rogers denied Google’s bid to have its case dismissed, ruling she could not accept that users gave consent for Google to collect browsing activity data from them.

Now the deal will head for court approval and comes amid increasing scrutiny of tech firms in both the US and beyond.

Google and Alphabet, its parent company, are currently facing two antitrust investigations brought forth by the US federal government.

Recently, they also resolved several other suits.

In 2022, Apple paid US states nearly $400m (PS318m) in settlement of allegations that its location tracking services tracked users who had uninstalled location services from their devices.

In December 2023, Google reached an agreement to pay $700m (PS557m) as settlement against lawsuit filed by five US states alleging it of suppressing competition to its Play Store on Android devices.

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