Google agrees to destroy browsing data collected in Incognito Mode

Google has agreed to destroy or de-identify billions of records of web browsing data collected when users were in its incognito mode, according to a proposed class-action settlement filed Monday.

the The proposed settlement in Brown v. Google It would also force greater disclosure from the company about how it collects information in incognito mode and place limits on future data collection. If a federal judge in California approves this settlement, it could apply to 136 million Google users. the 2020 lawsuit They were filed by Google account holders who accused the company of illegally tracking their behavior through its private browsing feature.

The proposal is worth $5 billion, according to Monday's court filing, and is calculated by determining the value of the data Google has stored that it will be forced to destroy and the data it will be prevented from collecting. Google will need to process data collected in private browsing mode in December 2023 and earlier. Any data that is not completely deleted must be de-identified.

“This settlement ensures true accountability and transparency from the world’s largest data aggregator and represents an important step toward improving and supporting our right to online privacy,” the plaintiffs wrote in their proposed settlement filing.

Google spokesman Jose Castañeda said in a statement that the company is “pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless.” Although plaintiffs estimated the proposed settlement at $5 billion, the amount they originally sought for damages, Castañeda said they “didn't receive anything.” The settlement does not include damages for the class, although individuals can file claims.

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“We never link data to users when they use incognito mode,” Castañeda added. “We are happy to delete outdated technical data that has never been associated with an individual and has never been used for any form of personalization.”

Part of the agreement includes changes to how Google discloses the limits of private browsing services, which the company has already begun rolling out to Chrome. Google also agreed for five years to allow users to block third-party cookies by default in incognito mode to prevent Google from tracking users on external websites while they are browsing privately.

Individuals can still file claims for damages in California state court, according to the terms of the settlement. 50 claims have already been submitted.

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