Google Chrome Agrees to Not Save Your Incognito Browsing Data

According to today’s report from the WSJ, Google has consented to erase “a trove of data that reflects millions of users’ web-browsing histories.” This decision comes as a resolution to a class action lawsuit initiated in 2020.

The settlement terms, disclosed in San Francisco federal court today, outline Google’s commitment to removing “billions of data points” that the lawsuit claimed were gathered improperly while users were browsing in Incognito mode on Chrome.

Google promises to delete Incognito browsing data to settle a class action lawsuit

That was the entire topic of the lawsuit against Google, the company’s purported deception of Chrome users regarding the tracking mechanisms employed while browsing in Incognito mode. Central to the lawsuit’s argument was the assertion that the company inadequately communicated the nature of data collection, encompassing specifics such as the websites accessed during Incognito sessions.

Furthermore, Google has committed to revising its disclosures regarding data collection in Incognito mode, offering users the choice to deactivate third-party cookies within this browsing setting. The company asserts that it is actively pursuing the implementation of these modifications. For a minimum of the next 5 years, Chrome will also allow users to disable third-party cookies as the default option in Incognito.

As part of the settlement, users affected by Google’s data tracking are not entitled to any damages, but they are allowed to file claims. The settlement has averted a trial so far. Already, plaintiff attorneys have submitted 50 claims in California state court, with additional filings anticipated in the forthcoming months.

Google spokesman José Castañeda called the lawsuit “meritless” since the data in question is not associated with an individual or used for any form of personalization of its services. The spokesman added that Google is happy to delete what he calls “old technical data”.

However, the lawsuit showed internal exchanges between Google’s top management and CEO Sundar Pichai in 2019, warning him that Incognito Mode should not be called private browsing and marketing it as such would be misleading, and almost damaging.

In late December, a preliminary settlement was reached, with the agreement still pending final approval from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California.

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