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Google To Delete Billions Of Browser Records In Settlement Over Incognito Mode Tracking Lawsuit

The lawsuit, filed in 2020, accused the tech giant of misleading users regarding data collection during "Incognito" browsing.

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Google is set to purge billions of data records following a settlement in a lawsuit alleging the tech giant's improper tracking of users' web-browsing activities, particularly those who believed they were browsing the internet in private mode.

In 2020, a lawsuit accusing Google of misrepresenting the nature of data collection from users utilizing the "Incognito" private browsing mode in its Chrome browser was filed. While Google agreed to settle the suit late last year, the specifics of the settlement were only disclosed in a filing on Monday.

According to court documents filed in San Francisco federal court, as part of the settlement, Google is mandated to delete "billions of data records" reflecting the private browsing behaviors of users involved in the class action suit.

Google will also update its disclosure practices to apprise users of the data it collects each time they commence a private browsing session. The tech giant has already commenced the implementation of these changes.

Over the next five years, Google will empower private browsing users to block third-party cookies as part of the settlement. Furthermore, Google commits to cease tracking individuals' decisions to browse the internet privately.

David Boies, the attorney representing the consumer plaintiffs, hailed the settlement as "a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies" in a statement to CNN.

Boies emphasized, "Moreover, the settlement requires Google to delete and remediate, in unprecedented scope and scale, the data it improperly collected in the past."

In response, José Castañeda, a spokesperson for Google, expressed satisfaction with the settlement, labeling the lawsuit as "meritless."

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

Addressing the financial aspect, Castañeda pointed out that while the plaintiffs initially sought $5 billion, they will not receive any compensation as part of the settlement.

The terms of the settlement, as revealed in court filings on Monday, specify that users will not be awarded damages collectively, but they retain the option to pursue individual claims for damages.