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Data vanishes while in disguise

Google has agreed to either destroy or anonymize billions of records of web browsing data collected from users using “Incognito” private browsing mode. This decision comes as part of a proposed class action settlement filed on Monday. The settlement also requires Google to provide more detailed information on how it collects data in Incognito mode and to limit future data collection. If approved by a federal judge in California, the settlement could impact 136 million Google users. The lawsuit, Brown v. Google, was initiated by Google account holders who alleged that the company was illegally tracking their behavior through the private browsing feature.

The proposed settlement, valued at $5 billion in Monday’s filing, was calculated by assessing the value of the data Google has stored and will have to destroy, as well as the data it will be restricted from collecting in the future. Under the terms of the settlement, Google is required to deal with data collected in private browsing mode until December 2023, and any data that is not explicitly deleted must be made anonymous. The plaintiffs in the proposed settlement stated that this agreement signifies real accountability and transparency from the largest data collector in the world, highlighting a crucial step towards improving and upholding privacy rights on the internet.

A Google spokesperson, José Castañeda, expressed that the company is pleased to resolve the lawsuit, which they have deemed baseless. Despite the plaintiffs estimating the settlement value at $5 billion, Castañeda clarified that they will not receive any damages. The settlement does not provide damages to the class, although individuals can file claims. Google reiterated that they do not associate data with users when using Incognito mode and are willing to delete old technical data that has never been tied to an individual or used for personalization.

As part of the settlement, Google has agreed to make changes in how it discloses

By Samantha Jones

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