Google agrees to delete billions of user records collected in Chrome private browsing mode

google agrees to delete billions of user records collected in chrome private browsing mode

Google agrees to delete billions of user records collected in Chrome private browsing mode

GOOGLE HAS AGREED to delete billions of records containing personal information collected from millions of people through its Chrome web browser, as part of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit in the US.

The lawsuit accuses Google of tracking Chrome users’ internet activity even when they had switched the browser to Incognito mode, a setting which is supposed to shield a user from being tracked.

The details of the deal emerged yesterday, more than three months after Google and its legal team disclosed they had resolved a lawsuit brought in June 2020 which focused on the privacy controls of the firm’s Chrome web browser.

The settlement requires Google to delete billions or personal records stored in its data centres, and make more prominent privacy disclosures about Chrome’s Incognito mode when it is activated.

The data deletion also applies outside the US.

The agreement also imposes other controls designed to limit Google’s collection of personal information.

Third-party cookies are small files which are used to target advertising by tracking web navigation and are placed by visited sites and not by the browser itself.

“This settlement is an 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,” lawyer David Boies said in the settlement filing.

While Google is supporting the deal, it disputes the claims as “meritless”, and said it was only required to “delete old personal technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalisation”.

In contrast, lawyers representing Chrome users depicted the settlement as a major victory for personal privacy in an age of ever-increasing digital surveillance, according to court papers.

They valued the settlement at between $4.75 billion and $7.8 billion, based on calculations of potential advertising sales that the personal information collected through Chrome could have generated in the past.

A hearing is slated for 30 July before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who is to decide whether to approve the deal that would let Google avoid a trial in the class-action suit.

The settlement calls for no cash damages to be paid but leaves an option for Chrome users who feel they were wronged to sue Google separately to get money.

Cookies

The settlement requires Google, for the next five years, to block third-party tracking “cookies” by default in Incognito Mode.

Google earlier this year began limiting third-party cookies for some users of its Chrome browser, a first step towards eventually abandoning the files that have raised privacy concerns.

Google announced in January 2020 that it would begin eliminating third-party cookies within two years, but the start has been delayed several times amid opposition from web media publishers.

Cookies have recently been subject to greater regulation, including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation introduced in 2016 as well as regulations in California.

Includes reporting by Press Association and AFP

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