Google forced to delete user data by Chrome Incognito mode lawsuit


The Google Chrome logo with the caption:
A lawsuit revealed that Google allowed users of Chrome's Incognito mode to think the app wasn't tracking them.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Google is reportedly required to delete the data it gathered while millions of users of its Chrome web bowser were in Incognito mode as part of settling a lawsuit.

Moving forward, the company will continue to track Chrome users in Incognito mode — while making it clearer that is what is happening.

Chrome Incognito mode lawsuit is an expensive black eye for Google

Chrome collecting user data isn’t an accident — it’s the whole purpose of the application for Windows, macOS, iPhone, etc. That’s because Google is an advertising company. It creates software purely to gather personal information about users so it can sell targeted ads.

Google’s practice of gathering user data while online in Incognito mode resulted in the company paying $5 billion to resolve a class-action lawsuit. Users mistakenly thought Incognito mode in the browser prevented Google from tracking them — a misconception the company apparently was aware of and didn’t try to remedy.

Further details of the settlement came to light Monday, including the news about deleting user data.  Google “agreed to destroy billions of data points that the lawsuit alleges it improperly collected,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

Google also is required to modify the description of Chrome Incognito mode to make it clear that the company still tracks people who use its web browser. (The company already began doing this.)

The class-action settlement also reportedly requires the company for the next five years to allow users to configure Incognito mode so that it always blocks third-party cookies.

Note that the settlement does not require Google to cease tracking users while they are in Chrome Incognito mode. The company will continue to do so — it need only make it clear to users that’s what is happening.

Tips for more private browsing

Chrome remains very popular, even with Mac users who can use Safari instead. (Privacy is just one of the reasons Apple fans should use Safari instead of Chrome.) If you want to visit certain websites that you’d prefer not to add to the profile that Google continuously fills with your private information, switch to Safari Private Browsing. Apple doesn’t use Safari to track users.

Even better, use DuckDuckGo when you want to go off the grid. This privacy-focused search engine and browser won’t save your searches or try to track you in any way. Its whole reason for existing is to protect your privacy on the internet.


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