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Google Settles Lawsuit by Agreeing to Destroy Billions of Data Records

 |  April 1, 2024

In a settlement, tech giant Google has agreed to remove billions of data records to resolve a lawsuit accusing the company of tracking the internet activity of individuals who believed they were browsing privately.

The terms of the settlement, which were filed on Monday in the Oakland, California federal court, necessitate approval by US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, as reported by Reuters.

According to lawyers representing the plaintiffs, the settlement is valued at over $5 billion, with some estimations soaring as high as $7.8 billion. While users will not directly receive damages, they retain the right to pursue individual lawsuits for compensation. The class action lawsuit, initiated in 2020, encompasses millions of Google users who utilized private browsing modes since June 1, 2016.

The crux of the users’ allegations revolved around Google’s employment of analytics, cookies, and applications, which purportedly enabled the Alphabet unit to illicitly monitor individuals who activated Google’s Chrome browser in “Incognito” mode or utilized other browsers in “private” browsing mode, as per Reuters.

Read more: Why This Google Antitrust Lawsuit Has Promise

Users argued that this practice transformed Google into an “unaccountable trove of information,” granting the company insights into personal details such as their social circles, culinary preferences, leisure pursuits, shopping tendencies, and even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing aspects of their online searches.

As part of the settlement, Google has pledged to enhance disclosures regarding the data it collects during “private” browsing sessions, a process that is already underway. Additionally, the tech giant will allow Incognito mode users to block third-party cookies for a duration 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,” emphasized the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

Source: Reuters