Google says it will destroy browsing data collected from Chrome’s Incognito mode

The first details were revealed on Monday by Google’s a Lawsuit over Chrome’s tracking of Anonymous users. A lawsuit filed in 2020 could have required the company to pay $5 billion in damages. Instead, The Wall Street Journal reports Google will destroy “billions of data points” it illegally collects, update its data collection disclosures and maintain Chrome’s default settings that block third-party cookies for the next five years.

The lawsuit accused Google of misleading Chrome users about how much private Incognito browser really is. It claimed the company told customers their data was confidential – even as it monitored their activity. Google has defended its practices, arguing that it warns Chrome users that Incognito mode does not mean “invisible” and that sites can still see their activity. The town was the first reported in December.

The suit originally sought $5,000 in damages to each user for alleged violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws. Google unsuccessfully attempted to have the company’s legal action dismissed in 2021 by Judge Lucy Koh. It “didn’t notify” users that it was still collecting data When incognito mode is on.

Engadget has emailed Google for comment on the billing details. We’ll update this article if we hear back.

The suit’s discovery includes emails from late 2022 that reveal some of the company’s concerns about Incognito’s fake privacy. In 2019, Google Chief Marketing Officer Lorraine Twohill suggested to CEO Sundar Pichai that “private” was the wrong term for incognito mode because it risked “reinforcing certain misconceptions.” In a subsequent email exchange, Twohill wrote: “How strongly can we sell Incognito because it’s not really personal, so it requires really vague, hedged language that almost hurts more.”

The court did not approve a class of plaintiffs for monetary damages, so users will have to sue Google as individuals to collect damages. Some lost no time: A group of 50 people already filed a separate lawsuit Thursday in California state court alleging a breach of privacy.

The trial was originally scheduled for February. The decision still needs final approval from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the Northern District of California before it becomes official.

“This settlement is a historic step that requires honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies,” said David Boies, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. The Wall Street Journal.

Part of the bill, Google’s requirement to turn off third-party tracking cookies by default over the next five years, may already be a point of contention. of the company Privacy Sandbox initiative already planned to disable all third-party cookies for Chrome users by the end of the year. It will replace them with the Topics API, a system that avoids cookies by classifying browsing activity into locally stored topics. The new system allows advertisers to target ads without direct access to users’ search data.

It is also questionable how effective it will be to destroy improperly collected data. Given that the suit covers data stretching back to 2016, it’s reasonable to assume the company has long since sold much of the data to third parties or incorporated it into separate products not covered by the settlement.

Google will also have to rewrite its privacy statements on its Incognito data collection practices. He said WSJ has already started implementing the change.

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