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Google will need to destroy incognito browsing data

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Google will need to destroy incognito browsing data

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Google has committed to destroying or remediating ‘billions of data records’ collected through incognito browsing sessions as part of a proposed class action settlement filed Monday (April 1).

The lawsuit, originally filed in June of 2020, accuses the search giant of violating California privacy laws in collecting Incognito mode data.

In the proposed settlement in Brown v. Google, the technology company will have to rewrite the disclosure to inform users that private browsing data is collected from these sessions.

Plaintiffs have also demanded and ‘secured accountability and relief for Google’s past conduct.’ On approval of the settlement, the data records must be deleted or remediated.

For the next five years, Google must ‘also maintain a change to Incognito mode that enables Incognito users to block third-party cookies by default.’

Third-party cookies are small files that are tracked by websites other than the one you are on, connecting your browsing activity across different websites and allowing advertisers to run targeted ads.

The settlement must be approved by a judge and then the above changes will have to come into action.

“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 filing, submitted by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, reads.

José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, said: “We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless,” the statement goes on: “The plaintiffs originally wanted $5 billion and are receiving zero.

“We never associate data with users when they use Incognito mode…We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization.”

Big Tech’s data problem

Google isn’t the first to come under fire for how data is handled, with Meta, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon all having been hit with data mismanagement lawsuits over the last few years.

It’s one of the reasons why concerns around TikTok have arisen, with worries the Chinese-owned company could collect sensitive user data of U.S. residents. TikTok has said they don’t hold U.S. data in China, but in Singapore and in the U.S. where it is routed through cloud infrastructure operated by the American company Oracle.

Featured image: Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

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