Google will destroy browsing data to settle lawsuit

Google agreed to destroy billions of data records to settle a lawsuit that claimed it secretly monitored the Internet usage of people it thought they were browsing privately.

Terms of the settlement were filed Monday in federal court in Oakland, California, and require approval by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers estimated the value of the settlement at more than $5 billion and as much as $7.8 billion. Google is not paying any damages, but users can sue the company individually for damages.

The class action began in 2020, covering millions of Google users who had been using private browsing since June 1, 2016.

Users alleged that Google’s analytics, cookies and apps let the Alphabet (GOOGL.O) unit improperly track people who use Google’s Chrome browser on “incognito” mode and other browsers on “private” browsing mode. Let’s set.

He said it turned Google into a “countless storehouse of information” by allowing Google to learn about their friends, favorite foods, hobbies, shopping habits, and “the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online.

Under the agreement, Google will update disclosures about what it collects in “private” browsing, a process that has already begun. It will also let Incognito users block third-party cookies for five years.

Also read: French watchdog fines Google €250m

“The result is that Google will collect less data from users’ private browsing sessions and Google will make less money from the data,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote.

Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said the company was pleased to settle the lawsuit, which it always considered frivolous.

“We never associate data with users when they use incognito mode,” Castañeda said. “We are happy to remove old technical data that was never linked to an individual and was never used for any type of personalization.”

David Boies, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called the settlement “a historic step forward in requiring honesty and accountability from major technology companies” in a statement.

A preliminary settlement was reached in December, postponing the trial scheduled for February 5, 2024. Terms were not disclosed at that time. The plaintiffs’ lawyers plan to seek unspecified legal fees payable by Google at a later date.

Alphabet is based in Mountain View, California.

The case is Brown et al v. Google LLC et al, US District Court, Northern District of California, number 20-03664.