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Google to Erase Data Gathered during Chrome Incognito Browsing

Google settles lawsuit over Incognito mode data tracking. They'll delete user data, update privacy notices, and limit tracking in Incognito for 5 years.

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has agreed to a settlement that necessitates the deletion of web browsing data it improperly collected from users who were under the impression they were browsing privately using Chrome's Incognito mode. The lawsuit, initiated in June 2020, accused Google of misleading consumers about the level of privacy and control they have over their data. The plaintiffs argued that despite Google's claims, its tracking tools, including Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager, continued to track users across websites, regardless of the users' privacy settings or browsing mode.

Details of the Settlement

Under the terms of the settlement, Google is required to make several significant changes to how it handles data related to private browsing. Firstly, Google must clearly inform users that it collects data even when they are browsing in Incognito mode, through updates to its Privacy Policy and an Incognito Splash Screen. Additionally, Google is mandated to delete or remediate billions of data records that reflect the private browsing activities of class members. The tech giant is also tasked with blocking third-party cookies in Incognito mode for the next five years and must eliminate browser signals that indicate when a user is in private browsing mode, to prevent future tracking.

Implications and Future Actions

The lawsuit and subsequent settlement highlight the ongoing concerns and debates around digital privacy and the responsibilities of tech companies in protecting user data. Google's spokesperson, José Castañeda, stated that while the company always believed the lawsuit was without merit, it is “happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization.” Despite the settlement, the plaintiffs retain the right to pursue individual damages against Google, with a significant number of class members already filing complaints in state court. The class of affected individuals is estimated to number about 136 million, underscoring the widespread impact of the case.

This settlement marks a significant moment in the ongoing dialogue about privacy, data collection practices, and the accountability of tech giants in the digital age. It serves as a reminder of the complexities surrounding online privacy and the importance of clear communication and transparency between technology companies and their users.

Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke has been writing about all things tech for more than five years. He is following Microsoft closely to bring you the latest news about Windows, Office, Azure, Skype, HoloLens and all the rest of their products.

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