SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Google has reached an agreement to delete “billions of data records” collected from users browsing the web in Incognito mode, as part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed in 2020. The settlement, filed in federal court in San Francisco, marks a significant development in ongoing discussions about online privacy and the efficacy of private browsing features.

Under the terms of the settlement, Google is obligated to update the Incognito mode “splash page” on Chrome browsers to explicitly state that data is collected from third-party websites regardless of browsing mode. Furthermore, Google must specify in its privacy policy details about its data collection practices during private browsing sessions.

As part of the agreement, Google will delete certain “private-browsing data” older than nine months from the date of the settlement term sheet signed in December. This includes data collected throughout December 2023. However, specific details about Google’s data collection methods remain sealed, raising questions about the thoroughness of the deletion process.

Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda emphasized that the deleted data was never associated with individuals and was not used for personalization. The company will not face any financial penalty as part of the settlement, having initially confronted a potential $5 billion penalty.

In addition to data deletion, Google is required to maintain the blocking of third-party cookies within Incognito mode for five years and implement measures to prevent re-identification of anonymized user data.

Critics argue that Incognito mode’s protections are inadequate against modern commercial surveillance practices, suggesting that users may be misled about the privacy it offers. However, the settlement aims to address concerns and effect changes at Google that benefit a large number of users immediately.

The settlement’s relief is primarily “injunctive,” focusing on ceasing activities that plaintiffs allege are unlawful, without precluding future claims. Plaintiffs’ attorneys stress the importance of implementing changes at Google to provide significant benefits to users.