Google Agrees to Destroy Billions of Browsing Data Records in Landmark Privacy Lawsuit Settlement

Google Agrees to Destroy Billions of Browsing Data Records in Landmark Privacy Lawsuit Settlement

Mihir Gadhvi 02/04/2024
Google Agrees to Destroy Billions of Browsing Data Records in Landmark Privacy Lawsuit Settlement

In a landmark settlement, Google has agreed to destroy billions of data records.

This resolution addresses a consumer privacy lawsuit alleging that it clandestinely tracked the internet activities of users who believed they were browsing in private mode.

The terms of the settlement, filed on Monday in federal court in Oakland, California, are contingent upon approval by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs estimate the settlement's value to be more than $5 billion, potentially reaching as high as $7.8 billion. However, while users will not receive direct damages, they retain the right to individually pursue claims for compensation.

The class action originated in 2020 and encompasses millions of Google users who engaged in private browsing since June 1, 2016. Plaintiffs alleged that Google's use of analytics, cookies, and applications enabled its subsidiary, Alphabet, to unlawfully monitor individuals who activated Google Chrome's "Incognito" mode or employed other browsers' "private" browsing functionalities.

According to the plaintiffs, this practice transformed Google into an "unaccountable trove of information," enabling the company to glean insights into users' social circles, preferences, hobbies, shopping behaviors, and even their most sensitive online searches.

Under the terms of the settlement, Google is obligated to update its disclosures regarding data collection during "private" browsing sessions, a process it has already commenced. Additionally, Google will empower Incognito mode users to block third-party cookies for a period of five years.

In a statement, the plaintiffs' legal representatives emphasized that these measures would result in Google collecting less data from users' private browsing sessions, consequently diminishing the company's profitability derived from such data.

Google has not yet responded to requests for comment on the settlement.

Although Google supports the final approval of the settlement, it disagrees with the plaintiffs' "legal and factual characterizations," as stated in court documents.

David Boies, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, described the settlement as "a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies."

The preliminary settlement was reached in December, with a trial scheduled for February 5, 2024. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed at the time. The plaintiffs' legal team intends to seek unspecified legal fees from Google at a later date.

The case, identified as Brown et al v Google LLC et al, is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California under case number 20-03664.

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Mihir Gadhvi

Tech Expert

Mihir Gadhvi is the co-founder of illustrake and HAYD. Illustrake is a D2C Enabler and offers Performance Marketing, Retention Marketing, and Content Creation Services. HAYD is a brand New, homegrown fashion line that aims to make clothing easy for us without taxing our planet. Although the concept is quite known now, HAYD wants to accomplish sustainability by reducing its impact on the environment with safe and fair manufacturing.

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