Google to Settle Class Action Lawsuit Over Incognito Mode Data Tracking

Google has reached a significant settlement in a class action lawsuit regarding its alleged tracking of internet users who utilized the "incognito" mode on its Chrome browser. The agreement, filed in federal court in Oakland, California, comes after plaintiffs accused Google, an Alphabet-owned company, of improperly tracking users' online activities despite assurances of privacy.

Under the terms of the settlement, Google will delete billions of data records associated with users' incognito browsing sessions. The lawsuit, filed in 2020 by plaintiffs representing millions of Google users who utilized private browsing since June 1, 2016, alleged that Google's analytics, cookies, and apps enabled it to track users even in incognito mode.

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

Although Google denies any wrongdoing, the company has agreed to delete old technical data that was not associated with individual users and was not used for personalization. According to Google spokesman Joe Castaneda, the lawsuit was deemed meritless, and Google is pleased to have reached a settlement.

The settlement, valued at more than $5 billion by the plaintiffs' lawyers, imposes no damages on Google. However, individual users retain the right to sue the company for damages. The agreement is subject to approval by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

In addition to data deletion, the settlement mandates that Google update its disclosures regarding the data it collects from users in incognito mode. Google has already begun this process. Furthermore, private browsing users will have the option to block third-party cookies for five years, as reported by Reuters.

One of the primary concerns raised by users in the lawsuit was Google's alleged accumulation of vast amounts of personal information, including details about their friends, preferences, and online activities. The plaintiffs argued that such data collection turned Google into an "unaccountable trove of information," compromising users' privacy.

David Boies, an attorney for the plaintiffs, hailed the settlement as "a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies." The agreement, reached in December to avert a scheduled trial in February 2024, signifies a significant milestone in addressing consumer privacy concerns in the digital age.

Overall, the settlement represents a proactive effort by Google to address allegations of privacy violations and enhance transparency regarding its data collection practices. As technology companies face increasing scrutiny over their handling of user data, this settlement sets a precedent for holding them accountable for maintaining consumer privacy standards.