Google settles lawsuit by deleting users' incognito mode browsing data

Google decides to delete billions of data points that were inappropriately gathered as part of settlement
An undated image of  Google logo. — Unsplash
An undated image of  Google logo. — Unsplash

In a bid to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 2020, Google has agreed to destroy data gathered from customers who used the Chrome browser's Incognito mode.

Moreover, the lawsuit revealed that the search engine giant misinformed users about the data collection and keeping a track of their activity — while using Incognito mode — without their consent. Data collected by Google includes websites visited, but the Incognito tab did not make this evident.

Whereas, when a user activates Incognito mode on Google Chrome, the browser shows that the browsing is "private" and that the browsing history won't be stored. While the browser informs that the website will collect data, the warning says nothing about Google's data gathering.

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In addition, Google revised the phrasing in Incognito mode in January 2024 to make clear that Google collects the same data in Incognito mode as it does in standard browsing.

As part of settlement, Google has decided to delete "billions of data points" that were inappropriately gathered. This includes updating the wording in Incognito mode and blocking third-party cookies by default. Google is expected to eliminate cookies later this year. The settlement includes damages for Google users, but they have the option of filing their own petition.

While citing a Wall Street Journal report, MacRumors reported that Google does not have any problem destroying "old technical data" that is not associated with users and was used for personalisation. Moreover, the agreement requires final approval from the judge dealing with the case.

Google is concluding several smaller lawsuits it's confronting with the US Department of Justice over its search and advertising businesses.

Google was convicted of creating preferential deals that damaged the search market and having too much control over advertising tools. The search battle has been ongoing since last September, while the ad lawsuit will be addressed in September 2024.