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Google will delete user data collected in Chrome’s Incognito Mode

Google has agreed to destroy data collected from users browsing the web in Chrome’s Incognito Mode.

As part of a proposed settlement to a lawsuit filed by Google account holders in California, Google said it’d be willing ditch the data it the plaintiff’s argue it shouldn’t have been collecting in the first place.

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Incognito Mode is Chrome’s private browsing feature that enables people to peruse the web without having their behaviour tracked by Google and third parties.

The 2020 lawsuit alleges that when Incognito Mode was enabled, tools like Google Analytics, and Google Ad Manager (as well as other apps and plug-ins) were still collecting data. Google had countered by saying that Incognito Mode expressly tells users that websites may be able to collect browsing activity information.

However, it has now agreed to delete or de-identify the data collected during or before December last year.

“This Settlement ensures real accountability and transparency from the world’s largest data collector and marks an important step toward improving and upholding our right to privacy on the Internet,” the plaintiffs say.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda said (via The Verge) the company is “pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we always believed was meritless.”

“We never associate data with users when they use Incognito mode. We are happy to delete old technical data that was never associated with an individual and was never used for any form of personalisation.”

The value of the settlement could cost Google up to $5 billion, which would cover the perceived value of the data to the company. Third-party cookies will be blocked by default moving forward.

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