Google Settles Privacy Lawsuit, Agrees to Block Third-Party Cookies Automatically

Google Settles Privacy Lawsuit, Agrees to Block Third-Party Cookies Automatically

April 2, 2024 Off By Sharp Media

Google announced it would begin testing a feature aimed at automatically blocking third-party cookies, known for tracking user activity, for all Google Chrome users. This move follows a lawsuit filed against the company in 2020. Initially, Google had implemented this block automatically for users in Incognito mode, and as part of a settlement filed in federal court in San Francisco, the company agreed to maintain this limitation for five years.

Additionally, Google committed to deleting “hundreds of billions” of records of private browsing data it had amassed. Google spokesperson Jorge Castaneda stated that the company was content to resolve the lawsuit, emphasizing that no damages would be paid. He added that Google was willing to erase outdated technical data that was never linked to individuals or utilized for personalization.

Nevertheless, Google still faces legal action from individuals concerning privacy breaches, which could result in financial penalties. Attorney David Boies, representing users in the lawsuit, hailed the agreement as a significant move towards ensuring transparency and accountability from dominant tech entities.

The lawsuit alleged that despite Google’s claims to the contrary, it continued tracking users’ activities even when they utilized the “Incognito” mode on Google Chrome or private modes on other browsers. Court filings revealed internal Google documents wherein employees referred to Incognito as “effectively a lie” and “a confusing mess”.

Last year, Judge Yvonne Rogers rejected Google’s attempt to dismiss the case, stating that she could not accept that users had consented to Google collecting information on their browsing habits.

The settlement must now undergo court approval. This development arises amidst heightened scrutiny of big tech companies’ practices, particularly in the US. Google and its parent company Alphabet are currently facing separate antitrust cases initiated by the federal government.

Furthermore, Google has recently settled several other legal disputes. In 2022, it paid close to $400 million to resolve allegations by US states that it tracked the locations of users who had opted out of location services. Additionally, in December 2023, Google agreed to a $700 million settlement to address a lawsuit from a coalition of US states accusing it of stifling competition on its Play Store for Android devices.