Google tracked users of its Chrome browser, but won’t pay $5 billion in lawsuits

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Ranking

In order to settle a class action lawsuit accusing Google of tracking users’ internet browsing activity without their knowledge or consent through its Chrome browser, the company has agreed to delete billions of data records.

In 2020, a group of users filed a class-action lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of illegally tracking their incognito activity. They felt betrayed by the fact that, despite assurances of privacy, Google was still collecting information about their searches or the sites they visited. The plaintiffs sought a total of $5 billion in damages.

Lawyers representing consumers suing Google cited internal company emails showing employees complaining to management that Incognito Mode was misnamed.

“Even when users are browsing the internet in ‘private browsing mode,’ Google continues to track them,” according to the suit. “Google’s tracking occurred and continues to occur no matter how sensitive or personal users’ online activities are.”

The settlement, which is awaiting approval from U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, was announced in late December 2023.

According to court filings on April 1, 2024, the settlement provides relief to class members by deleting a large amount of private browsing data, including event-level records. As part of this process, Google is required to remove identifying information such as IP addresses and detailed URLs, and to delete the X-Client-Data header field, which is used to capture information about Chrome installations. Additionally, Google must block third-party cookies in Incognito Mode for five years and has announced plans to eliminate tracking cookies by default by the end of the year. The company has also updated the language around Incognito Mode to clarify that it does not affect how websites and services collect data. The lawsuit also revealed internal communications in which Google employees described Incognito Mode as a “confusing mess” and a “problem of professional ethics and basic honesty.”

The settlement means that plaintiffs will not receive compensation as part of a class action. Instead, they can seek it individually, and so far the court has received about 50 such claims.

As Google faces legal challenges from the Justice Department regarding accusations of monopolizing online search and a separate lawsuit targeting its advertising business, the company has reached a deal that avoids a potentially lengthy and expensive trial.

If you want to use more reliable browsers with search engines than Google’s Chrome, and which update results better than Google, try Microsoft Edge Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yandex.


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