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Google agrees to 'destroy' data it collected to settle Incognito mode lawsuit

Details about the Incognito mode settlement have emerged.
By

Published onApril 1, 2024

Google Chrome Incognito Mode with background
TL;DR
  • Details are now emerging from Google’s settlement of a class-action lawsuit over Chrome’s tracking of Incognito mode users.
  • The company has agreed to destroy “billions of data points” it improperly collected.
  • Google will also update its data collection disclosures and maintain a setting in Chrome that blocks third-party cookies by default.

Filed back in 2020, a class action lawsuit alleged that Chrome’s Incognito mode does not fully protect users from internet tracking. In December 2023, it was reported that the tech giant had agreed to settle the dispute rather than let the lawsuit go to court. Now new details about that settlement are starting to emerge.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Google has agreed to destroy “billions of data points” it inappropriately collected from people using Incognito mode. In addition, it will update data collection disclosures for the browser. The firm also agreed that it will maintain a setting in Chrome that blocks third-party cookies by default for the next five years.

When the 2020 lawsuit was filed, the plaintiffs accused Google of being intentionally unclear that Chrome’s Incognito mode doesn’t prevent the tracking of user activity. The group also claimed that Google can monitor private browsing activity and associate it with user profiles connected to that Chrome installation.

In response to the allegations, the Mountain View-based organization argued that the splash screen you see when you open up Incognito mode warns users that incognito “does not mean ‘invisible.'” However, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers didn’t agree with Google’s assertion.

Although a settlement has been reached, the process is not done yet. The final approval still rests in the hands of Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

While the court did not approve a class of plaintiffs for financial damages, it is allowing users to sue Google individually. The report mentions that people have already filed individual suits in the state of California over privacy violations.

As for the conditions of the settlement, Google may have already been working to implement some of the changes. The company already planned on disabling all third-party cookies by the end of the year. And back in January, it was spotted in Chrome Canary version 122 that Google had adjusted the language in Incognito mode’s disclaimer to be more clear about how the mode works. This new disclaimer added the sentence “This won’t change how data is collected by websites you visit and the services they use, including Google.”

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