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Google to Destroy Billions of Browsing Data to Settle Consumer Privacy Lawsuit

The class action encompasses millions of Google users who employed private browsing since 2016

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on April 3, 2024, 11:21:02

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Google agreed dispose billions data records resolve lawsuit alleging

Google has agreed to dispose of billions of data records to resolve a lawsuit alleging that it clandestinely tracked the Internet activities of users who believed they were browsing in private.

The terms of the settlement were submitted in the federal court in Oakland, California, pending approval by US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

Estimated by plaintiffs' attorneys at over $5 billion and potentially as high as $7.8 billion, the settlement does not entail any damages paid by Google. However, individual users retain the right to sue the company for damages.

Initiated in 2020, the class action encompasses millions of Google users who employed private browsing since June 1, 2016.

Users contended that Google's analytics, cookies and apps enabled its subsidiary Alphabet's new tab unit to improperly monitor individuals who set Google Chrome browser to "Incognito" mode and other browsers to "private" browsing mode.

This allegedly transformed Google into an "unaccountable repository of information," granting access to details ranging from users' social circles, culinary preferences, leisure pursuits, shopping tendencies, to the most intimate and potentially sensitive online searches.

According to the settlement terms, Google will enhance disclosures regarding its data collection practices in "private" browsing, a process already underway. Additionally, it will allow Incognito users to block third-party cookies for a period of five years.

Plaintiffs' lawyers highlighted that this would result in Google gathering less data from users' private browsing sessions, consequently reducing its revenue from data monetisation.

Jose Castaneda, a spokesman for Google, expressed the company's satisfaction with the settlement, branding the lawsuit as meritless and emphasising that Google never associates data with individual users in Incognito mode.

Castaneda reiterated Google's commitment to deleting obsolete technical data that was never linked to an individual or utilised for personalisation.

David Boies, representing the plaintiffs, hailed the settlement as a pivotal move towards demanding transparency and accountability from dominant technology entities.

A preliminary settlement was reached in December, forestalling a scheduled trial on February 5, 2024, with terms undisclosed at the time. Plaintiffs' attorneys intend to subsequently pursue unspecified legal fees payable by Google.

Alphabet, Google's parent company, is headquartered in Mountain View, California.

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