Landmark Settlement: Google to Delete Billions of Data Records

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The giant search engine constantly hits the headlines of the news. Not for a good reason but due to its lawsuits. One after another new lawsuits have been imposed on Google over the last few months. One such class action lawsuit was filed on Google in June of 2020 brought by users who claimed Google tracked their browsing activity even in “Incognito Mode” since 1st June 2016. In the wake of the filed lawsuit, Google was looking to settle the class-action lawsuit. Finally, the latest development has been added to it which claims that Google has finally agreed to destroy browsing data gathered from the Incognito mode of Chrome. 

It is worth noting that the lawsuit demanded the firm to pay $5 billion in the form of damages or $5,000 per affected user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws. This lawsuit covers millions of Google users who have been using private browsing mode since 1st June 2016. Chrome’s users felt they were deceived as they believed that their personal data and online secrets were pretty safe in the private browsing mode of Google. The terms of the settlement were submitted to a federal court in Oakland, California on Monday, 1st April 2024 and US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers must now approve them. 

It is worth noting that the trial of this case was earlier planned to be taken in February, but it was rescheduled because of a preliminary settlement reached in December 2023. However, at the time, the details of the terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Moreover, the users who can take legal action against the search giant, have accused that “Google’s analytics, cookies and apps let the Alphabet unit improperly track people who set Google’s Chrome browser to ‘Incognito’ mode and other browsers to ‘private’ browsing mode’, according to the reports of a news agency. 

The report went on to say that, “They said this turned Google into an ‘unaccountable trove of information’, by letting it learn about their friends, favourite food, hobbies, shopping habits, and the ‘most intimate and potentially embarrassing things’ they hunt for online.” 

David Boies, the plaintiffs’ lawyer released a statement to “The Wall Street Journal” regarding the settlement of Google over the lawsuit. He said, “This settlement is a historic step in requiring dominant technology companies to be honest in their representations to users about how the companies collect and employ user data, and to delete and remediate data collected.”  

The settlement allows Chrome users who believe they were wronged to sue Google individually to recover damages, but it does not mandate the payment of monetary damages.

Jorge Castaneda, the spokesperson of Google stated in a release statement that “We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless. We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization.” 

The complaint was focused on the “Incognito Mode” feature of the Chrome browser, which the plaintiffs claimed gave consumers the impression that the Silicon Valley tech company was not tracking them while they were online.

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