Google agreed on Monday to delete millions of data records to settle a lawsuit accusing the tech giant of tracking users’ internet activity through the supposedly private Incognito Mode feature.

The federal suit, filed in 2020, covered millions of users who claim to have been misled by the company’s claims that Incognito Mode was an effective tool for private browsing. Although the Chrome feature does stop Google from collecting data directly, the plaintiffs allege that it does nothing to disable third-party cookies, which monitor user activity for targeted advertising.

As Valuetainment previously reported, Google disputed the claim and insisted that the Incognito Mode splash screen made it clear that the privacy setting had limits. However, in January, the company eventually agreed to settle the $5 billion class action out of court without admitting wrongdoing. At the time, the details of the settlement were not disclosed, and court approval was still pending ahead of the scheduled hearing on February 5th.

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However, according to new legal filings submitted on April 1st, Google will now “delete and/or remediate billions of data records that reflect class members’ private browsing activities,” and extend this to users outside the US as well. Google previously updated its Incognito Mode disclosure to clarify what data is still tracked. At the time of the initial agreement, the search engine implemented a trial feature to automatically block third-party cookies in and out of Incognito Mode, and the court documents reveal that it has agreed to keep this feature enabled for five years.

“The result is that Google will collect less data from users’ private browsing sessions, and that Google will make less money from the data,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

The settlement also indicated that Google will not make any financial restitution directly, but plaintiffs will be able to pursue damages by filing separate complaints in state courts. The original class action had sought a $5 billion payout, for a minimum of $5,000 per plaintiff.

“We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless,” Google spokesman Jorge Castaneda said in a media statement. “We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalization.”

The settlement is still pending final court approval, and the previously scheduled court date was vacated to allow both parties to “focus their efforts entirely on finalizing the settlement.”

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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