Saturday, July 20

Google to delete billions of Chrome browser records in latest settlement

Google to delete billions of Chrome browser records in latest settlement

In recent months, Google has been racing to clear a backlog of lawsuits ahead of major antitrust showdowns with the Justice Department later this year.

On Monday, the company resolved its fourth case in four months, agreeing to delete billions of data records it had compiled on millions of Chrome browser users, according to a legal filing. The suit, Chasom Brown, et al. v. Google said the company misled users into tracking their online activity in Chrome’s Incognito mode, which they thought was private.

Since December, Google has spent more than $1 billion settling lawsuits as it prepares to fight the Justice Department, which has targeted Google’s search engine and advertising business in two lawsuits.

In December, Google resolved a lawsuit with dozens of attorneys general, saying it forced app makers to pay high fees. Six weeks later, the company settled a case accusing it of inappropriately sharing the private information of users of its defunct social networking site, Google+. And in March, Google agreed to pay a Massachusetts company, Singular Computing, an undisclosed sum after it was accused of stealing patent designs — a claim Google denies.

To end the Incognito Mode claims, Google agreed “to rewrite its disclosures to inform users that Google collects private browsing data,” says the settlement, which was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of Northern District of California. Users can already see the disclosure on the landing page when they open Incognito mode.

Google has agreed, for the next five years, to maintain a change to Incognito mode which blocks third-party cookies by default, limiting the number of web users that can be tracked by sites.

“This requirement ensures additional privacy for Incognito users in the future, while limiting the amount of data Google collects from them,” said the plaintiffs’ attorneys, led by renowned attorney David Boies, in the file.

Google will also stop using technology that detects when users enable private browsing, so it will no longer be able to track people’s choice to use Incognito mode. Although Google will not pay the plaintiffs as part of the settlement, individuals have the option of suing the company for damages.

Google said in a statement that the suit was without merit.

“The plaintiffs initially wanted $5 billion and received none,” said José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson. “We are happy to remove old technical data that has never been associated with an individual and has never been used for any form of personalization.”

The trial was scheduled to begin in early February, although the parties said in December that they had agreed to a settlement.

“The settlement prevents Google from surreptitiously collecting user data worth, by Google’s own estimates, billions of dollars,” Boies said Monday.