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Google Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Over Collection of Private Browsing Data in Incognito Mode

Google Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Over Collection of Private Browsing Data in Incognito Mode

By Prince Dankwa

In a major privacy win for consumers, Google has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit related to its collection of users’ private browsing data in Incognito mode. The proposed settlement will see the tech giant delete hundreds of billions of records obtained from Chrome users who browsed privately and believed their activities were anonymous.

The lawsuit, Brown v. Google LLC, alleged that Google continued tracking and monitoring users’ browsing history, search terms, and other online activity even when they enabled Incognito mode in Chrome. This private browsing setting is meant to prevent local data collection and promise users anonymity.

However, the lawsuit claimed Google was still collecting unique “fingerprints” of devices’ software and settings. This allowed the company to link private browsing data back to individuals. Google was also found to be sharing URL records with its own servers and third parties when users surfed in Incognito windows.

As part of the class action settlement, Google has agreed to rewrite its Incognito mode disclosures to make it clearer that some data is still collected. More importantly, the company will delete “billions” of private browsing records pertaining to class members. Google is also blocking third-party cookies in Incognito for at least five years going forward.

While no direct financial compensation is being provided to the millions of affected users, consumer advocates are calling this a victory for privacy. It sends a message that tech giants must be transparent about private modes and limit data collection as users expect. Many will be watching closely to ensure Google properly deletes these private records as it has agreed.

Going forward, stronger privacy protections should be the default across all browsing modes, not just optional private windows. Users deserve control and confidence that their online activities truly remain private, no matter what browser setting they use. This settlement is an important step towards that goal.

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