Google to destroy billions of data records to settle “incognito” lawsuit

Google cracking down on cookies

Google will destroy a vast trove of data as part of a settlement over a lawsuit that accused the search giant of tracking consumers even when they were browsing the web using “incognito” mode, which ostensibly keeps people’s online activity private. 

The details of the settlement were disclosed Monday in San Francisco federal court, with a legal filing noting that Google will “delete and/or remediate billions of data records that reflect class members’ private browsing activities.”

The value of the settlement is more than $5 billion, according to Monday’s filing. 

The settlement stems from a 2020 lawsuit that claimed Google misled users into believing that it wouldn’t track their internet activities while they used incognito. The settlement also requires Google to change incognito mode so that users for the next five years can block third-party cookies by default.

“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,” the settlement filing states. 

Although Google agreed to the initial settlement in December, Monday’s filing provides more details about the agreement between the tech giant and the plaintiffs, consumers represented by attorney David Boies of Boies Schiller Flexner and other lawyers. 

Neither Google nor Boies Schiller Flexner immediately replied to a request for comment.

“This settlement ensures real accountability and transparency from the world’s largest data collector and marks an important step toward improving and upholding our right to privacy on the Internet,” the court document noted.

—With reporting by the Associated Press.

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