Google to delete browsing history to resolve a privacy complaint

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An Austrian privacy complaint against Google is related to suspected browser tracking
An Austrian privacy complaint against Google is related to suspected browser tracking

Google agreed to erase billions of data records in order to settle a lawsuit alleging that it secretly tracked customers’ internet activity when they thought they were browsing in privacy.

In order to resolve a lawsuit alleging that it surreptitiously monitored the internet activity of users who believed they were surfing in private, Google agreed to delete billions of data records.

The settlement’s terms were submitted to a federal court in Oakland, California, on Monday, and US 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 have the option to sue Google individually for damages, but the firm 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.

People claimed that Google improperly tracked users who turned their Chrome browser to “Incognito” mode and other browsers to “private” browsing mode, using Google’s analytics, cookies, and apps.

They claimed that by allowing Google to learn about their acquaintances, favorite cuisines, pastimes, shopping patterns, and the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they look for online, this transformed Google into a “unaccountable trove of information.”

As part of the settlement, Google will—as it has already started—update its disclosures on the data it gathers during “private” surfing. Additionally, it will grant users of Incognito a five-year restriction on 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 attorneys for the plaintiffs argued.

Google, which has long seen the lawsuit as baseless, was happy to reach a settlement, according to Google spokesman Jose Castaneda.

“We never associate data with users when they use Incognito mode,” Castaneda stated.

“We are pleased to remove outdated technical data.”

“We never associate data with users when they use Incognito mode,” Castaneda stated. “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 hailed in a statement by plaintiffs’ attorney David Boies as “a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies.”

In December, a preliminary settlement was struck, preventing the trial that was slated for February 5, 2024. At the time, terms weren’t disclosed. Later on, the plaintiff’s attorneys intend to demand an undisclosed amount of legal expenses from Google.

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