Google will get rid of billions of files as part of settlement in case involving allegations about Chrome’s incognito mode

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Google has agreed to delete billions of records containing personal information collected from more than 136 million people in the US who browse the web through its Chrome browser.

The major domestic cleanup comes as part of a settlement in a lawsuit accusing the search giant of illegal activity.

Details of the deal were revealed in a court filing on Monday, than three months later Google and the lawyers handling the case revealed that they settled the June 2020 lawsuit related to Chrome’s privacy controls.

Among other things, the lawsuit accused Google of tracking Chrome users’ online activity even after they switched the browser to “Incognito” which is supposed to protect them from being hacked by the Mountain View, California company.

Google fought the case vigorously until US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected a request to dismiss the case last August, setting up a potential trial. The settlement was negotiated over the next four months, until Monday’s final disclosure of the terms, which Rogers must still accept at a hearing scheduled for July 30 in Oakland, California, federal court.

The settlement requires Google to destroy billions of personal data stored in its data centers and reveal Chrome’s privacy settings when Incognito is enabled. It also implements other controls designed to limit Google’s data collection.

Consumers represented in the lawsuit will not receive any damages or other compensation in the settlement, a point Google emphasized in Monday’s statement about the agreement.

“We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we have always believed to be frivolous,” Google said in a statement. The company insisted that it only needed to “remove old technical information that was not associated with any individual and had not been used for any type of human activity.”

In court papers, lawyers representing Chrome users painted a very different picture, portraying the settlement as a major victory for personal privacy in an age of increasing digital surveillance.

The lawyers estimated that the settlement was between $4.75 billion and $7.8 billion, depending on calculations based on the potential sales that personal data collected through Chrome could have made in the past and in the future without the new restrictions.

The settlement also does not protect Google from many lawsuits related to the content described in the class action lawsuits. This means that any consumer can sue the company by filing complaints in federal courts around the US.

Investors don’t seem too worried about what’s going on in the digital marketplace, which accounts for more than $300 billion in annual revenue from Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. Shares in Alphabet rose 3% to close Monday at $155.49. , giving the company a market value of $1.9 trillion.

Austin Chambers, a privacy lawyer at the firm Dorsey & Whitney, described the Chrome settlement as a “welcome development” that could affect how personal information is collected online in the future.

“This prevents companies from benefiting from this data, and it also requires them to try to remove the data,” Chambers said. “In some cases, this can have a big impact on products built around datasets.”

Google continues to face legal threats at regulatory limits that could have a significant impact on its business, depending on the outcome.

After the US Department of Justice detailed its allegations that the company was abusing control of its search engine to stifle competition and innovation. at trial last fall, A federal judge is scheduled to hear closing arguments in the case on May 1 before issuing a ruling expected in the fall.

Google is also facing possible changes in its mobile app store with the help of its Android app that could reduce its revenue from commissions later. a federal judge last year concluded the company was operating an illegal monopoly. A hearing examining the changes Google could make to its Play Store is expected at the end of May.

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