Updated April 1st, 2024 at 23:07 IST

Google to destroy browsing data for settling lawsuit over internet tracking allegations

Google will not be paying damages as part of the settlement, but affected users retain the option to individually sue the company for damages.

Reported by: Business Desk
Alphabet (Google): $1.716 trillion | Image:Unsplash
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Accepts data tracking: Google has agreed to settle a lawsuit accusing the company of secretly tracking the internet usage of individuals who believed they were browsing privately. The terms of the settlement were filed in the federal court in Oakland, California, and await approval by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs estimate the settlement to be worth over $5 billion, possibly reaching $7.8 billion. Google will not be paying damages as part of the settlement, but affected users retain the option to individually sue the company for damages.

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The class action, initiated in 2020, encompasses millions of Google users who utilized private browsing since June 1, 2016. Allegations against Google included claims that its analytics, cookies, and apps allowed the company to improperly track individuals using Google Chrome's "Incognito" mode and similar private browsing modes on other browsers.

The plaintiffs argued that Google's actions turned the company into an "unaccountable trove of information," enabling it to gather data on users' personal interests, habits, and online searches.

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As per the settlement terms, Google will update disclosures regarding its data collection practices in private browsing sessions, a process already underway. Additionally, it will allow users in Incognito mode to block third-party cookies for a period of five years.

In response to the settlement, Google spokesman Jose Castaneda emphasized the company's commitment to user privacy, stating that they do not associate data with individual users when using Incognito mode. Castaneda added that Google is pleased to delete old technical data that was never linked to individuals or used for personalization.

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David Boies, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, hailed the settlement as a "historic step" in holding dominant technology companies accountable for their actions.

The preliminary settlement, reached in December, set a trial date for February 5, 2024, with terms undisclosed at the time. Plaintiffs' lawyers intend to later seek unspecified legal fees from Google.

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Alphabet, Google's parent company, is headquartered in Mountain View, California.

(With Reuters Inputs)

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Published April 1st, 2024 at 23:07 IST