Google to Delete Billions of Browsing Records in ‘Incognito Mode’ Privacy Lawsuit Settlement

Google to Delete Billions of Browsing Records in ‘Incognito Mode’ Privacy Lawsuit Settlement

Google has agreed to purge billions of data records reflecting users’ browsing activities to settle a class action lawsuit that claimed the search giant tracked them without their knowledge or consent in its Chrome browser.

The class action, filed in 2020, alleged the company misled users by tracking their internet browsing activity who thought that it remained private when using the “incognito” or “private” mode on web browsers like Chrome.

In late December 2023, it emerged that the company had consented to settle the lawsuit. The deal is currently pending approval by the U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

As part of the data remediation process, Google is also required to delete information that makes private browsing data identifiable by redacting data points like IP addresses, generalizing User-Agent strings, and remove detailed URLs associated with visited websites (i.e., retain only domain-level portions of the URLs).

In addition, it has been asked to delete the so-called X-Client-Data header field, which Google described as a Chrome-Variations header that captures the “state of the installation of Chrome itself, including active variations, as well as server-side experiments that may affect the installation.”

Other settlement terms require Google to block third-party cookies within Chrome’s Incognito Mode for five years, a setting the company has already implemented for all users. The tech company has separately announced plans to eliminate tracking cookies by default by the end of the year.

The development comes as Google said it has started automatically blocking bulk senders in Gmail that don’t meet its Email sender guidelines in an attempt to cut down on spam and phishing attacks.

The new requirements make it mandatory for email senders who push out more than 5,000 messages per day to Gmail accounts to provide a one-click unsubscribe option and respond to unsubscription requests within two days.