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  • Khushboo Pareek

Google agrees to delete user data collected in Incognito mode

Google has agreed to delete or de-identify billions of records of web browsing data collected while users were in its private browsing "Incognito mode."

The tech giant made the offer in settlement to the 2020 class action lawsuit Brown vs Google.

The settlement, if approved by a California federal judge, would also require Google to provide more transparency regarding its data collection practices in Incognito mode and impose restrictions on future data collection, reported The Verge.

The settlement stands to potentially impact 136 million Google users.

The lawsuit was initiated by Google account holders who alleged that the company unlawfully tracked their activities through the private browsing feature.

The court filing on Monday revealed that the proposed settlement is valued at $5 billion. The calculation is based on the assessment of the data Google currently stores and would be required to delete, as well as the data it would be restricted from collecting.

Google is mandated to handle data collected in private browsing mode up to December 2023 and ensure that any remaining data, if not deleted, is de-identified.

"This Settlement ensures real accountability and transparency from the world’s largest data collector and marks an important step toward improving and upholding our right to privacy on the Internet," the plaintiffs wrote in the proposed settlement filing.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda said in a statement that the company is "pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless."

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

While the plaintiffs initially sought $5 billion in damages, the proposed settlement does not include any compensation for the class.

According to Castañeda, they are not receiving any monetary compensation. However, individuals within the class are allowed to file claims.

As part of the agreement, Google has started implementing changes to how it informs users about the limitations of its private browsing services, a process that has already commenced on Chrome.

Google has also committed to allowing users to block third-party cookies by default in Incognito mode for a five-year period, aiming to prevent tracking by Google on external websites while users are in private browsing.

According to the settlement terms, individuals still have the option to file claims for damages in California state court. Currently, there have been 50 claims filed.








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