Google Will Delete Billions of Records in ‘Incognito’ Lawsuit

Google has agreed to delete billions of data entries as a settlement to a legal claim alleging the company unlawfully tracked the online activities of users who believed they were surfing the web privately.

This lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleged that Google was not transparent about the data it collected from users who navigated the internet in Chrome’s “Incognito” mode, believing their activities were private.

The tech giant reached a settlement agreement late last year, with the details of this agreement only being revealed in a recent court filing on Monday.

Under the terms of the agreement, Google is required to delete “billions of data records” that capture the private web activities of the users involved in the class-action lawsuit, as detailed in legal documents submitted to a San Francisco federal court on Monday.

In addition, Google will modify its notifications to clearly communicate the data it collects each time someone initiates a session of private browsing. Google has already begun implementing these updates.

Furthermore, for the next five years, Google will allow users of private browsing to block third-party cookies, as stipulated by the settlement. Google will also cease the monitoring of users’ preferences for private internet browsing.

David Boies, the lawyer representing the consumers in the case, described the settlement as a landmark move towards ensuring transparency and accountability from leading tech firms.

“Moreover, the settlement requires Google to delete and address, on an unprecedented scope and scale, the data it improperly collected in the past,” Boies added.

José Castañeda, speaking on behalf of Google, stated that the company is “pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was without merit.”

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

He also mentioned that despite the plaintiffs’ initial demand for $5 billion, they will not receive any monetary compensation.

Court documents disclosed on Monday made it clear that although the settlement does not provide for damages to users, they retain the right to pursue individual claims for damages.