Google will delete billions of browsing records to settle privacy lawsuit: court filing

Google will delete billions of browsing records to settle privacy lawsuit: court filing
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A photo of a Google sign outside of its headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

  • Google will destroy user data to settle a $5 billion privacy lawsuit related to its “incognito” mode.
  • The 2020 lawsuit accused Google of collecting users’ data without their knowledge.
  • Google will also turn off third-party trackers by default and let users know when their data is being collected.

Google will destroy users’ browsing data to settle a $5 billion privacy lawsuit about its “incognito” browsing, according to federal court filings.

The 2020 class action lawsuit accused the search engine of collecting millions of users’ data without their knowledge while they used incognito mode. The suit alleged that Google was secretly amassing data from users when they thought their browsing was private.

The settlement was first announced last December, but the specific details of the settlement were revealed Monday in new court filings.

Now, Google has agreed to delete billions of data records that are older than nine months, the filing states.

As part of the settlement, Google also agreed to inform users that it collects data in incognito mode, and make it so third-party trackers are turned off by default when using the feature. Previously, Google had used third-party cookies to collect users’ data even when they were on non-Google sites.

“We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda said in a statement to Business Insider. “The plaintiffs originally wanted $5 billion and are receiving zero. We never associate data with users when they use Incognito mode. We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization.”

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Google had known for years that the marketing and branding of its incognito mode was potentially misleading, the lawsuit alleged.

For example, in 2013, employees urged the company to simplify the landing page of incognito mode, arguing that users would draw “incorrect conclusions” from it about how private their browsing was, the court filing states.

And in 2019, Google’s chief marketing officer Lorraine Twohill warned CEO Sundar Pichai in an email that incognito mode used “really fuzzy, hedging language that is almost more damaging,” but still, nothing changed, according to the filing.

The settlement also allows users to file individual claims against the company — and already, 50 plaintiffs have filed claims in California state court seeking monetary damages.

In their filing, attorneys for the plaintiffs called the settlement “ground-breaking” and “unprecedented” in its scope and scale.

“This settlement is an historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies,” David Boies, an attorney representing the consumers, told the Wall Street Journal.

Details of the settlement were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Representatives for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to BI’s request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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