Is Private Browsing Really Private? – Google to Delete Billions of Browser Records in the Latest Settlement

Is Private Browsing Really Private? – Google to Delete Billions of Browser Records in the Latest Settlement

People have been relying on Google’s ‘Incognito’ mode to do private browsing. But is it really ‘private’ if your data is being recorded?

In a recent lawsuit, the internet tech giant is accused of improperly tracking the web-browsing habits of its users, even in the ‘incognito’ mode.

The suit was originally filed in 2020 and Google was accused of misrepresenting the kind of data it collects from users who browsed the internet via “Incognito” private browsing mode in Chrome. Google agreed to settle the suit last year.

The tech giant has settled numerous lawsuits in recent months and has spent over $1 billion since December.

According to The New York Times, In December, Google resolved a suit with dozens of attorneys general claiming it strong-armed app makers into paying high fees. Six weeks later, the company settled a case that accused it of improperly sharing users’ private information from its defunct social media site, Google+. 

In March, Google agreed to pay a Massachusetts company, Singular Computing, an undisclosed sum after being accused of stealing patent designs — a claim that Google denies.

As a part of the recent settlement, Google will delete billions of Chrome browser records and update its disclosure to inform users what data it collects when they go Incognito.

“This requirement ensures additional privacy for Incognito users going forward while limiting the amount of data Google collects from them,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers, led by David Boies, the high-profile attorney, said in the filing.

José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, told CNN that the company is “pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless.”

“We never associate data with users when they use Incognito mode,” Castañeda added. “We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization.”

A trial was scheduled to start in early February, though the parties said in December that they had agreed to settle. 

The plaintiff originally wanted $5 Billion but received nothing as a part of this settlement. The court filings on Monday stated that users will not receive damages as a part of this settlement, but may still sue for damages individually.

The tech giant is facing numerous lawsuits against the justice department and different states this year.

According to TIME magazine, a jury trial in a lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department and a coalition of state attorneys general accusing the company of violating antitrust regulations by illegally monopolizing digital advertising is slated for September, and a similar lawsuit from Texas and other states challenging its ad tech practices has been scheduled for March 2025. 

In a third case, a U.S. judge in Washington is set to hear closing arguments in May for a landmark federal antitrust trial that alleges the company has illegally monopolized the online search market.