Google has agreed to a significant change in its handling of data collected while users are in Chrome's Incognito mode, Bloomberg reports. This move comes as part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit accusing the tech giant of misleading users about the privacy of the Incognito mode.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, which still requires approval from a California federal judge, Google will destroy or de-identify billions of records of web browsing data collected under the guise of private browsing. This decision could affect an estimated 136 million Google users who believed their data was private while using this feature.

The lawsuit, initiated in 2020, highlighted that while Incognito mode suggested privacy, Google’s systems and various website-integrated tools continued to collect data. Plaintiffs argued that this collection was deceptive, as users were under the impression that their activities were not being tracked.

Google Will Have to Face a Lawsuit for Tracking Users in Incognito Mode
The search giant is accused of secretly collecting user data even if they use a private Incognito mode in the Google Chrome browser, thus illegally invading millions of users’ privacy.

The settlement terms include not only the destruction of data but also enhanced disclosures about data collection practices in Incognito mode. Furthermore, Google will implement a default block on third-party cookies in Incognito mode for the next five years, enhancing user privacy.

This landmark agreement follows revelations from internal Google communications that questioned the privacy level of Incognito mode, with suggestions that marketing the feature as "private" could exacerbate user misconceptions.

Although the plaintiffs initially sought $5 billion in damages, the settlement includes no financial compensation from Google. Instead, it opens the door for individuals to pursue their claims against the company in state courts. Already, 50 such claims have been filed following the settlement announcement.

This case marks a pivotal moment for internet privacy, especially concerning the practices of major technology firms. It underscores the growing scrutiny on how companies collect and handle user data, with potential implications for privacy regulations and corporate transparency.