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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Google to delete some data it collected on ‘private’ web browsers

Google agreed to delete data points it collected on the internet habits of people using its “incognito” private browsing mode, according to a Monday court filing from lawyers representing consumers who sued the internet giant.

Google also promised to maintain certain changes to incognito mode on its Chrome web browser, including letting people block tracking “cookies” used for advertising and to disclose exactly what data it retains on users. Unlike other recent tech lawsuit settlements, the agreement does not include a specific amount of money Google must pay to consumers who were affected by its actions, but individual consumers still retain their right to sue Google over the tracking. Lawyers for the plaintiffs estimate this could cost Google billions, though that would require many thousands of people to bring lawsuits against the company.

“This settlement is a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies,” David Boies, chairman of law firm Boies Schiller Flexner which led the lawsuit, said in an email.

“We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless. The plaintiffs originally wanted $5 billion and are receiving zero,” said Google spokesman José Castañeda. “We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization.”

The agreement comes after Google settled the lawsuit in December, avoiding a potentially high-profile trial. Google has been facing an increasing number of major legal and regulatory challenges in the United States and abroad as concerns have grown about how big tech companies use their customers’ data. Earlier this year, a judge found Google had broken competition law in how it ran its Android app store after video game giant Epic Games sued the company, a major defeat for Google.

The company, which for years fought class-action and government lawsuits related to its data collection practices, has increasingly begun settling lawsuits instead.

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