Google has announced that it intends to destroy browser data to settle an ongoing privacy lawsuit filed against the company in 2020. 

Google reached a preliminary settlement in January 2024 following a failed attempt to dismiss the case in August 2023. 

The lawsuit alleges that Google tracked and stored data from its users browsing on Google’s Chrome Incognito feature. Incognito was advertised to users as a private browsing feature that does not save a user’s internet history or searches. 

The judge presiding over the case, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, stated that, if true, Google would have broken legally binding promises made to its users in its privacy policy.   

Google has now agreed to destroy the data collected from users browsing the internet in incognito mode as well as updating its privacy policy to clearly state the level of privacy given to its incognito users. 

Lawyers representing the case’s plaintiffs stated that storing this data made Google an “unaccountable trove of information”, stating the potentially embarrassing or sensitive nature of the data stored. 

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One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, David Boies, stated the result was “a historic step in requiring honesty and accountability from dominant technology companies”. 

Following the deletion of the data, individual users will still be able to sue Google for damages. 

Research and analysis company GlobalData’s 2023 thematic intelligence report on tech regulation noted that Google had received the highest regulatory fines of any Big Tech company in the past decade. 

Despite receiving over $13.9bn worth of fines in the last decade, this amount only equates to 5% of Google’s total revenue in 2022 alone. 

GlobalData warned that fines alone are often not enough to deter Big Tech companies from bad business practice. Instead, it anticipated that ex ante regulations would become more regularly used to curb company malpractice before it happens.