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Published on April 01, 2024
"Incognito No More!" Google Wipes Billions of Data Files Amid Illicit Surveillance ClaimsSource: Anthony Quintano from Mount Laurel, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Google has agreed to wipe billions of personal data files from Chrome users, caving in to a class-action lawsuit that accused the tech behemoth of illicit surveillance. The suit, which represented more than 136 million people in the U.S., claimed Google tracked users' activity even in the supposed sanctuary of Chrome's “Incognito” mode. According to ABC News, Google fought the allegations vigorously before a potential trial loomed, sparking settlement talks that led to the data purge deal.

Facing a lawsuit filed in June 2020, Google held its ground until U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers tossed out the request to dismiss the case last August. Having emerged in court filings Monday, the records' deletion is part of a wider settlement including improved Incognito option disclosures and other personal information collection restrictions. The settlement's approval hinges on a hearing set for July 30 by Rogers in an Oakland, California federal court, detailed by ABC News.

On the flip side, plaintiffs in the lawsuit will not see damages or payments despite their alleged privacy invasion. Google statement highlighted in ABC News proclaimed, “We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless." Meanwhile, representing Chrome users' attorneys conveyed a contrasting narrative, branding the settlement as a significant triumph for privacy.

Attorney David Boies, representing the consumers, underscored the settlement's magnitude, and told CNN, "a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies." Conversely, Google spokesperson José Castañeda remarked in a CNN interview, “We never associate data with users when they use Incognito mode.”

The settlement's value is estimated between $4.75 billion and $7.8 billion, opined by class-action attorneys. The valuation is based on the prospective advertising sales from the personal information that will now be deleted due to the new regulations. Notably, the settlement doesn't protect Google from future lawsuits covering similar ground, reported by ABC News.

While financial markets appear unfazed, Google's legal woes persist. The search giant faces a judgment from a federal judge in an antitrust case presented last fall, expected after closing arguments on May 1. There's also an upcoming hearing regarding changes to Google's app store for Android smartphones as per a federal jury's ruling on antitrust violations, ABC News has highlighted.