Google to Destroy or Anonymize Billions of Private Browsing Data Records in $5 Billion Settlement

Disappearing Data in Stealth Mode

In a proposed settlement, Google has agreed to either destroy or anonymize billions of records of web browsing data collected while users were in “Incognito” private browsing mode. This decision comes as part of a class action lawsuit filed by Google account holders who claimed the company was illegally tracking their behavior through the private browsing feature. If approved by a federal judge in California, the settlement could impact 136 million Google users.

The proposed settlement, valued at $5 billion, includes calculations for the data that Google will have to handle and destroy until December 2023. Any data that is not explicitly deleted will be made anonymous. The plaintiffs praised the settlement for providing real accountability and transparency from one of the largest data collectors, stating that it marks an important step towards enforcing privacy rights on the internet.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda expressed satisfaction with resolving the lawsuit, which they believed to be baseless. He emphasized that users would not receive any damages from the settlement, despite its valuation of $5 billion. Additionally, Google agreed to changes in how it discloses the limits of its private browsing services and to allow users to block third-party cookies by default in Incognito mode for five years.

Individuals can still file damages claims in California state court under the terms of the settlement, with 50 requests already submitted. The settlement does not provide damages to the class as a whole but individuals have been given an opportunity to file claims for compensation for any harm suffered due to privacy violations by Google’s collection practices. Google maintains that they do not associate data with users in Incognito mode and are willing to delete old technical data that has no association with individuals or personalization. Overall, this significant step towards addressing privacy concerns and data collection practices on the internet is a step forward in protecting user’s online privacy rights.

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