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Google to purge billions of files containing personal data in settlement of Chrome privacy case

By MICHAEL LIEDTKE | AP Technology Editor

SAN FRANCISCO — Google has agreed to delete billions of records containing personal information collected from more than 136 million people in the United States surfing the Internet through its Chrome web browser.

The massive housecleaning comes as part of a settlement in a lawsuit accusing the search giant of illegal surveillance.

Details of the settlement were revealed in a court filing Monday, more than three months after Google and class-action lawyers revealed they had resolved a June 2020 lawsuit targeting Chrome’s privacy controls.

Among other allegations, the lawsuit accused Google of tracking Chrome users’ Internet activity even when they switched the browser to the “Incognito” setting, supposedly to protect them from being observed by the Mountain View, California, company.

Google vigorously fought the lawsuit until U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected a request to dismiss it last August, clearing the way for a possible trial. The settlement was negotiated over the next four months, culminating in Monday’s disclosure of the terms, which Rogers must still approve at a hearing scheduled for July 30 in federal court in Oakland, California.

The settlement requires Google to delete billions of personal records stored in its data centers and disclose more privacy information about Chrome’s Incognito option when it is enabled. It also imposes other controls intended to limit Google’s collection of personal information.

Consumers represented in the class-action lawsuit will not receive any damages or other payments as part of the settlement, a point Google emphasized in a statement Monday regarding the agreement.

“We are pleased to settle this lawsuit, which we have always considered to be without merit,” Google said. The company claimed it was only required to “delete old personal technical data that has never been associated with an individual and has never been used for any form of personalization.”

In court papers, lawyers representing Chrome users painted a much different picture, describing the settlement as a major victory for privacy in an age of ever-increasing digital surveillance.

California Daily Newspapers

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