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Google settles $5 billion consumer privacy lawsuit

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Alphabet’s Google has agreed to settle a lawsuit claiming it secretly tracked the Internet usage of millions of people who thought they were browsing privately.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of Oakland, Calif., on Thursday stayed a trial scheduled for Feb. 5, 2024, in the proposed class action, after lawyers for Google and consumers said they had reached a preliminary settlement.

The lawsuit sought at least $5 billion. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but the attorneys said they agreed to a binding term sheet through mediation and plan to present a formal settlement for court approval by February 24, 2024.

Neither Google nor attorneys for the consumer plaintiffs immediately responded to requests for comment.

The plaintiffs alleged that Google’s analytics, cookies and apps allowed the Alphabet unit to track their activity even when they set Google’s Chrome browser to “Incognito” mode and other browsers to “private” browsing mode. “.

They said it had turned Google into an “inexplicable wealth of information” by allowing the company to learn about their friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits and “potentially embarrassing things.” » that they search for online.

In August, Rogers denied Google’s request to dismiss the suit.

She added that it was an open question whether Google had made a legally binding promise not to collect users’ data when they browse in private mode. The judge cited Google’s privacy policy and other company statements suggesting limits on the information it could collect.

Filed in 2020, the suit covered “millions” of Google users since June 1, 2016, and sought at least $5,000 in damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping laws and California privacy laws .

The case is Brown et al v. Google LLC et al, United States District Court, Northern District of California, No. 20-03664.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Aurora Ellis)

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