July 12, 2024

Solid State Lighting Design

Find latest world news and headlines today based on politics, crime, entertainment, sports, lifestyle, technology and many more

Google deletes records from incognito tracking

Google deletes records from incognito tracking
  • Written by Natalie Sherman
  • Business Correspondent, New York

Image source, Getty Images

Google has agreed to delete billions of records and be subject to some restrictions on its ability to track users, under the terms of a proposed legal settlement.

The deal aims to resolve a class-action lawsuit filed in the United States in 2020, which accused the tech giant of invading people's privacy by collecting user data even when they were browsing in “private mode.”

Google supports the deal, although it disputes these allegations.

It has already made changes in response to the lawsuit.

Data deletion will also apply outside the United States.

In January, shortly after the two sides announced plans to settle the case, the company updated its disclosures to clarify that it was still tracking user data even when users chose to search privately or use an “incognito” setting.

This mode provides some increased privacy because it does not save browsing activity on the device being used.

That same month, the company said it had begun piloting a feature that would automatically block third-party cookies, which help track user activity, for all Google Chrome users.

It made that ban automatic for incognito users shortly after filing the lawsuit in 2020, and agreed to ensure that limit would be enforced for five years, according to the terms of the settlement deal, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco.

Google spokesman Jorge Castañeda said in a statement: “We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was baseless,” noting that the company will not pay any compensation.

“We are happy to delete outdated technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization.”

Google still faces lawsuits from individuals over privacy violations, which could result in financial penalties.

Attorney David Boies of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, who represented users in the fight, called the deal “a historic step in demanding honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies.”

The lawsuit alleged that despite its suggestions to the contrary, Google tracked users' activity even when they set Google Chrome to “incognito” mode and other browsers to “private mode.”

The legal battle revealed documents in which Google employees described Incognito mode as “an actual lie” and a “confusing mess,” according to a court filing Monday.

Last year, Judge Yvonne Rogers rejected Google's offer to dismiss the case, saying she could not agree that users agreed to let Google collect information about their browsing activity.

The deal will now go before the court for approval.

The settlement comes as major technology companies face increasing scrutiny of their practices in the United States and abroad.

In the United States, Google and its parent company Alphabet are facing two separate monopoly cases brought by the federal government.

It also recently settled a number of other lawsuits.

In December 2023, it also agreed to a $700 million (£557 million) settlement to resolve a lawsuit brought by a group of US states that accused it of suppressing competition to the Play Store on Android devices.