Google says it will destroy browsing data collected from Chrome’s Incognito mode

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More information emerged on Monday from Google’s settlement of a a case involving Chrome’s tracking of Incognito users. Filed in 2020, the lawsuit would have required the company to pay $5 billion in damages. On the contrary, The Wall Street Journal reports that Google will destroy “billions of data” it collected in error, change its reporting and maintain a feature that blocks third-party cookies by default for the next five years.

The lawsuit accused Google of misleading Chrome users about how private Incognito browsing is. It says the company told customers their information was private – even though it monitored their activity. Google defended its actions by saying it warned Chrome users that Incognito mode “doesn’t mean ‘invisible'” and that websites can see what they’re doing. The termination was the first It was announced in December.

The court initially asked for damages of $5,000 per user in cases related to California’s privacy laws. Google tried and failed to stop the lawsuits, while Judge Lucy Koh confirmed in 2021 that the company I didn’t “notify” users that they were still collecting data while the Incognito mode was active.

Engadget has emailed Google for comment on the details. We’ll update this story if we hear back.

The discovery of the suit also included emails that, in late 2022, publicly revealed some of the company’s concerns about Incognito’s fake privacy policy. In 2019, Google’s Chief Marketing Officer Lorraine Twohill told CEO Sundar Photosi that “private” is the wrong word for Incognito because it can “grow the wrong impression of identity.” In a later email exchange, Twohill wrote, “We are limited in our ability to sell Incognito because it is not confidential, and therefore requires vague and confusing language that is very damaging.”

The court did not allow the class of plaintiffs to pay damages, so users will have to sue Google individually to try to recover compensation. Others wasted no time: A group of 50 people already filed a lawsuit in federal court in California on Thursday for alleged privacy violations.

The trial was scheduled to take place in February. The settlement still needs final approval from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the Northern District of California before it can be implemented.

“This settlement is an important step toward greater honesty and accountability from major technology companies,” Attorney David Boies, who is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. The Wall Street Journal.

One standard setting, the requirement that Google disable third-party cookies by default for the next five years, may already be a problem. The company Private Sandbox Initiative is already scheduled to block third-party cookies for Chrome users by the end of the year. It will be replaced by the Themes API, a system that avoids cookies by dividing browsing events into locally stored categories. The new system allows advertisers to target ads to users without having access to their search results.

It is also questionable how effective the destruction of improperly collected data will be. Given that the suit covers information from 2016, it’s reasonable to assume that the company either sold the information to third parties long ago or consolidated it into various products that no longer exist.

Google should also write a privacy statement on its data collection results in Incognito mode. It said Price WSJ has already started using the switch.

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