Google to Remove Billions of Personal Data Records from over 136 Million Users

By Consultants Review Team Tuesday, 02 April 2024

Technology behemoth Google has agreed to take a major step in response to a lawsuit claiming unlawful surveillance: the removal of billions of records including personal data gathered from over 136 million Americans who have used its Chrome web browser. This action is a part of a settlement between Google and the plaintiffs in the case, and it represents a significant advancement in the field of digital privacy

More than three months after Google and the class-action lawsuit's lawyers acknowledged they had reached a settlement, the specifics of this arrangement were revealed in a court document that was made public on Monday.

The June 2020 complaint explicitly attacked Chrome's privacy protections, alleging that Google was secretly monitoring Chrome users' online activity even when they had turned on the browser's Incognito mode, which is meant to protect users from this kind of monitoring.

At first, Google vehemently denied the claims made in the case. But in August of the same year, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers denied their move to dismiss the case, which dealt a blow to their opposition and opened the door for possible litigation. 

After then, talks took place over the course of the next four months, and on the Monday in question, the details of the settlement were revealed. Judge Rogers' approval of the settlement is still pending, though, since there is a hearing at a federal court in Oakland, California on July 30.

A number of significant clauses intended to improve user privacy and limit Google's data gathering methods are included in the settlement conditions. The most important of them is the mandate that Google remove billions of personal records from its data centers, which would remove millions of Chrome users' digital footprints. 

The settlement also requires Google to provide clearer disclosures concerning Chrome's Incognito mode so that users are fully aware of the privacy risks associated with their online activity.

In addition, the settlement enforces further measures aimed at restricting Google's acquisition of personal data, thereby reducing the hazards linked to internet monitoring. The deal does not, however, include any clause providing financial compensation to the customers named in the class-action case. 

In a statement released the same Monday, Google reiterated this point, saying that the settlement mainly relates to the removal of outdated technical data that was never linked to specific users or used for customization.

The lawyers for Chrome users have presented a different image of the settlement, describing it as a major win for individual privacy in the face of growing digital surveillance, in contrast to Google's portrayal of the settlement as a benign resolution to what it views as a meritless lawsuit. 

Based mostly on the potential ad income that may have been earned from the personal information obtained through Chrome, they estimate the settlement's worth to be between $4.75 billion and $7.8 billion.

It's also crucial to remember that the settlement does not protect Google against lawsuits involving related matters in the future. This implies that specific customers still have the choice to bring civil lawsuits in state courts all around the country in order to seek damages from the business. Investors don't seem to be concerned about these ongoing legal issues, judging by the roughly 3% increase in Alphabet Inc. (Google's parent company) shares during Monday's trading session.

Though the deal could be a major turning point in the continuing discussion about internet privacy, Google still faces difficult legal obstacles on a number of fronts. These include claims of anti-competitive behavior and possible modifications to legislation pertaining to app stores and digital ad income.

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