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Google to Delete Chrome Incognito Browsing Data to Settle Lawsuit

Last Update: April 2, 2024

Google has agreed to delete data that was collected from customers who used the Chrome browser’s Incognito mode, settling a class action lawsuit that started in 2020, reports The Wall Street Journal.

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The lawsuit claimed that Google misled users about the data collected while in Incognito or private browsing mode, tracking their website usage without their knowledge. Google was keeping data that included websites viewed, but the Incognito tab did not make this clear.

Browsing in Incognito mode said that browsing was “private” and that people won’t see browsing activity, and while it was stated that websites could still collect data, the warning said nothing about Google’s data collection. Google updated the wording of Incognito mode in January 2024 to clarify that Google collects the same data in Incognito mode and standard browsing mode.

Google plans to destroy “billions of data points” that were improperly collected, in addition to updating the wording in Incognito mode and disabling third-party cookies by default when using the feature (Google plans to get rid of cookies entirely later this year). The settlement does not include damages for Chrome users, but individuals do have the option to file their own lawsuits.

A Google spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that Google does not have an issue with deleting “old technical data” that was not associated with individuals or used for personalization. The agreement still needs final approval from the judge overseeing the case.

Google is wrapping up several smaller lawsuits as it faces off with the U.S. Department of Justice over its search and ad businesses. Google has been accused of making preferential deals that have harmed the search industry and of having too much control over advertising tools. The search battle has been ongoing since last September, while the ad lawsuit will proceed in September 2024.

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