Google Settles Lawsuit by Agreeing to Delete Billions of Records

Google Settles Lawsuit by Agreeing to Delete Billions of Records

Google settles privacy lawsuit by committing to erase billions of data records, ensuring users’ browsing privacy is respected.

Google agreed to delete the records in order to resolve a lawsuit alleging that it secretly monitored the internet activity of users who believed they were browsing incognito on its Chrome browser.

Also read: Microsoft Unveils Features to Tackle AI Hallucinations

People claimed that Google improperly tracked users who switched Chrome and other browsers to “private” and “incognito” modes, according to Google’s analytics, cookies, and apps.

The lawsuit

The settlement terms were submitted to the federal court in Oakland, California on Monday, and U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers must approve them.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys estimated the agreement’s worth at over $5 billion and as much as $7.8 billion. Users can sue Google individually for damages, but the company is not paying any.

Millions of Google users who have utilized private browsing since June 1, 2016, are covered by the class action, which started in 2020.

As part of the settlement, as it has already started, Google will update its disclosures regarding the data it gathers during “private” browsing. For five years, users of incognito mode will be able to block third-party cookies.

“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 wrote.

Court documents state that although Google agrees with the plaintiffs’ “legal and factual characterizations,” it nevertheless supports the settlement’s final approval.

“We are limited in how strongly we can market Incognito because it’s not truly private, thus requiring fuzzy, hedging language that is almost more damaging,” Google’s chief marketing officer, Lorraine Twohill, wrote to the CEO, Sundar Pichai, in 2019.

Google, which has always viewed the lawsuit as baseless, was pleased to settle, according to Google spokesman Jose Castaneda.

“We never associate data with users when they use Incognito mode,” Castaneda said. “We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization.”

The settlement was described as “a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies” by plaintiffs’ attorney David Boies in a statement.

In December, a preliminary settlement was reached, announcing a trial date of February 5, 2024. At the time, terms weren’t disclosed. Later on, the plaintiffs’ attorneys intend to demand an undisclosed amount of legal fees from Google.

The company has dealt with comparable suits in the past. “Incognito mode or ‘private browsing’ is a web browser function that implies to consumers that Google will not track your search history or location activity,” according to a lawsuit filed against the company by the Texas attorney general in 2022.

Google’s stand on cookies

For some Chrome browser users, Google started restricting third-party cookies earlier this year as a preliminary move towards eventually removing the files that have sparked privacy concerns.

Google stated in January 2020 that it would start removing third-party cookies in two years, but due to resistance from online media publishers, the start date has been postponed multiple times.

More regulations have recently been placed on cookies, such as those in California and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union, which was introduced in 2016.

RELATED TOPICS: cookies, Google, lawsuit
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