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Google to delete browsing data to settle consumer privacy lawsuit


Mountain View: In an effort to settle a lawsuit alleging secret tracking of internet users who believed they were browsing privately, Google has agreed to delete billions of data records.

The terms of the settlement, filed on Monday in the Oakland, California federal court, are subject to approval by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs estimated the settlement's value to be over $5 billion, potentially reaching $7.8 billion. While users will not receive damages as part of the settlement, they retain the option to individually sue for damages.

The class action, initiated in 2020, encompassed millions of Google users who utilized private browsing since June 1, 2016.

Allegations against Google claimed that its analytics, cookies, and apps allowed the company to track individuals who utilized Google Chrome's "Incognito" mode or other browsers' "private" browsing modes. Plaintiffs argued that this practice transformed Google into an "unaccountable trove of information," enabling the company to gather insights into users' personal interests, shopping habits, and online activities.

Under the terms of the settlement, Google will revise its disclosures regarding data collection during "private" browsing sessions, a process that is already underway. Additionally, Google will enable Incognito users to block third-party cookies for a period of five years.

"The result is that Google will collect less data from users' private browsing sessions and that Google will make less money from the data," stated the plaintiffs' lawyers.

Although Google has not yet responded to requests for comment, court documents indicate its support for final approval of the settlement, despite disagreements with the plaintiffs' legal and factual characterizations.

David Boies, representing the plaintiffs, described the settlement as "a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies."

A preliminary settlement was reached in December, with a trial scheduled for Feb. 5, 2024. At the time, terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but the plaintiffs' lawyers intend to seek unspecified legal fees from Google in the future.

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TAGS:Google Consumer Privacy LawsuitGoogle Browsing Data
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