Google to destroy 'secretly collected Incognito data' over $5 billion lawsuit

Google has agreed to destroy billions of data records that the tech giant "secretly collected" from users who used the 'Incognito' mode to browse the internet privately.
Google to destroy 'secretly collected Incognito data' over $5 billion lawsuit
Jaano Junction

Google has agreed to destroy billions of data records that the tech giant "secretly collected" from users who used the 'Incognito' mode to browse the internet privately.

The lawsuit, first filed in 2020, could require the company to pay USD5 billion in damages or USD5,000 per affected user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.

The class-action suit covers millions of Google users who have used private browsing mode since June 1, 2016. The users felt they were misled as they believed their online secrets were safe in Google's private browsing mode.

The terms of settlement were filed on Monday at a federal court in Oakland, California, and it now requires approval by US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

The trial was initially scheduled to take place in February, but it was averted due to a preliminary settlement reached in December 2023. However, the terms of settlement were not revealed at the time.

The users, who can sue Google individually, have alleged that "Google's analytics, cookies and apps let the Alphabet unit improperly track people who set Google's Chrome browser to 'Incognito' mode and other browsers to 'private' browsing mode", a Reuters news agency report said.

"They said this turned Google into an 'unaccountable trove of information', by letting it learn about their friends, favourite food, hobbies, shopping habits, and the 'most intimate and potentially embarrassing things' they hunt for online," the report added.

Under the lawsuit, Google will have to reveal what it collects from "private" browsing and also allow "Incognito" users to block third-party tracking cookies by default for the next five years.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, the plaintiffs' lawyer, David Boies, called the settlement a "historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies".

Meanwhile, Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said the tech giant "always" considered the lawsuit 'meritless", but it was pleased to settle it.

"We never associate data with users when they use Incognito mode," Castaneda was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

"We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalisation."

Source: India Today

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