Disappearing Data in Stealth Mode

Google to Destroy Billions of Records in ‘Incognito’ Private Browsing Mode as Part of Class Action Settlement

Google has agreed to destroy or anonymize billions of records of web browsing data collected while users were in “Incognito” private browsing mode as part of a proposed class action settlement. The lawsuit, Brown v. Google, was filed in 2020 by Google account holders who claimed the company was illegally tracking their behavior through the private browsing feature. If approved by a federal judge in California, the settlement could impact 136 million Google users.

The proposed settlement, valued at $5 billion, includes calculations for the data that will be destroyed and the data that Google will be barred from collecting in the future. Google will have to handle data collected in private browsing mode until December 2023, and any data that is not explicitly deleted will have to be made anonymous. The plaintiffs praised the settlement for providing real accountability and transparency from one of the largest data collectors, stating that it marks an important step towards enforcing privacy rights on the internet.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda expressed satisfaction with resolving the lawsuit, which they believed to be baseless. Castañeda emphasized that the plaintiffs would not receive any damages from the settlement despite its valuation of $5 billion. In addition to changes in how it discloses the limits of its private browsing services and allowing users to block third-party cookies by default in Incognito mode for five years, Google also agreed to changes in how it handles user data overall.

Individuals can still file damages claims under California state court’s terms within five years after the approval of this settlement agreement

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