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Google to delete billions of 'Incognito' browser records: Report

The company will block third-party tracking cookies in Incognito mode, preventing advertisers from monitoring private browsing sessions.

Google will erase billions of data entries related to users' private browsing habits as part of a privacy lawsuit settlement, according to a report by The Indian Express. The proposed agreement mandates Google to implement some alterations, such as blocking third-party cookie tracking within Chrome browser's incognito mode.

The settlement seeks to address a lawsuit initiated in the US in June 2020, alleging that the tech giant violated individuals' privacy by gathering user data even during 'private' mode browsing.

The lawsuit claims that Google gathers information regarding users' visited websites, browsing destinations, and personal details such as their social circle, interests, shopping preferences, and search history—all while users believing that they are browsing anonymously. The lawsuit aims for $5 billion in damages.

Google is supporting the settlement, though it disputes the claims. "We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless. We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalisation," Google spokesman Jorge Castaneda said in a statement, emphasising that the company will not pay any damages.

Throughout the dispute, Google consistently asserted that it never linked any data with individual users while they were in 'Incognito' mode, nor did it utilise such data for personalised advertisements or recommendations. Additionally, Google discreetly revised the disclosures displayed upon opening a new Incognito tab on Chrome regarding the data collected during private browsing sessions.

Chrome now states that users can "browse more privately," rather than asserting to enable "private browsing."

A hearing is scheduled for July 30 before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers to discuss the settlement. If sanctioned, it would signify a significant privacy shift for Google and impose stricter constraints on advertising data collection during private browsing sessions.

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