Google Finally Agrees to Delete Data It Collected from Incognito Mode for Years

Google Incognito Mode browsing lawsuit
In Short
  • In 2020, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Google for illegally collecting user data in Chrome's incognito mode.
  • Now, a $5 billion settlement sees Google moving to delete and remediate this collected data.
  • Google now offers users with a toggle to block third-party cookies in incognito mode.

Looks like Google has been taking its Privacy Sandbox initiative seriously and recently, even disabled third-party cookies for 1% of its Chrome users. By later 2024, the giant is expected to completely purge cookies. However, while that’s a good thing, problems don’t seem to stop pouring on Google’s plate.

In 2020, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Google by its account holders and represented by Boies Schiller Flexner on the grounds that the data of Chrome users is stored despite them being using incognito mode. This became very controversial, very fast.

After almost four years, Google has finally agreed to either completely get rid of or “de-identify” billions of users’ incognito mode data. The $5 billion Motion for Miscellaneous Relief against Google states, “This settlement is a historic step in requiring dominant technology companies to be honest in their representations to users about how the companies collect and employ user data, and to delete and remediate data collected.”

Earlier this year, Google updated the wording on its Chrome’s Incognito Mode. Now, the wording lets users know that “You’ve gone Incognito. Others who use this device won’t see your activity, so you can browse more privately. This won’t change how data is collected by websites you visit and the services they use, including Google.”

Google spokesman José Castañeda also told the Wall Street Journal that Google is happy, “to delete old technical data“. Castañeda also stated that the data collected via Chrome Incognito Mode was never meant to personalize the user’s experience or be associated with it in any way. With that, he discarded the individual lawsuits filed against Google as “meritless”.

However, a very important thing came to light. Back in 2019 itself, Google’s chief marketing officer Lorraine Twohill had dropped a mail to CEO Sundar Pichai, warning him of the potential problem calling Incognito Mode “private” could turn out to be for them.

While Google is working on completely scrapping off cookies and deleting or remediating data collected from Chrome’s Incognito mode browsing, you can do something to be safe on your end till then. Alongside updating the Incognito mode working, Google has also added a toggle to Block third-party cookies.

So, the next time you go Incognito, I’d highly recommend toggling that setting off. I noticed that this setting is turned on by default.

Incognito mode on any browser is supposed to be a safe space for users, where they don’t have to worry about their data being collected in ANY way. That’s why you go incognito in the first place. Private browsing exists for a reason and this lawsuit will certainly see to it that no such company misuses the incognito mode functionality. Most importantly, with this, companies will hopefully think twice before cloaking the truth with cunningly framed sentences.

What do you think about this entire debacle? Let me know in the comments down below.

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