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Google Agrees to Delete Search Data in Settlement Over Privacy Concerns

Google has reached an agreement to delete a substantial amount of search data as part of a settlement to resolve a lawsuit alleging that it tracked millions of US users who believed they were browsing the internet privately.

According to court documents filed in San Francisco federal court on Monday, if approved by a judge, the proposed settlement requires Google to “delete and/or remediate billions of data records” associated with individuals using the Chrome browser’s incognito mode.

Lawyer David Boies described the settlement as a significant step in holding dominant technology companies accountable for their representations to users regarding data collection and usage. The agreement aims to ensure transparency and accountability while addressing the data collected.

A hearing is scheduled for July 30 before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers to determine whether to approve the deal, allowing Google to avoid a trial in the class-action suit.

While the settlement does not involve cash damages, it provides an option for Chrome users who feel aggrieved to pursue separate legal action against Google for financial compensation.

The lawsuit, initially filed in June 2020, sought damages of at least $5 billion. Google spokesman Jorge Castaneda expressed satisfaction with the settlement, asserting that the company always believed the lawsuit lacked merit. Castaneda emphasized Google’s commitment to deleting old technical data unrelated to individuals and not utilized for personalization purposes.

At the heart of the lawsuit was Google’s “Incognito Mode” in the Chrome browser, which plaintiffs argued misled users into believing their online activities were not being tracked by the tech giant. Internal Google emails presented during the lawsuit indicated that users in incognito mode were indeed being tracked for web traffic measurement and advertising purposes.

The settlement mandates Google to block third-party tracking “cookies” by default in Incognito Mode for the next five years. Third-party cookies are used for targeted advertising and track web navigation, placed by visited sites rather than the browser itself.

This settlement comes amidst growing concerns over online privacy and regulatory efforts to address such issues, including regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and legislation in California.

Source: AFP

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