Google will remove billions of data records after a lawsuit revealed the tech giant was tracking the browsing habits of its users without consent.

The class action lawsuit accused Google of tracking users while browsing in incognito or private windows.

Associate Professor at the School of Computing and Information Technology (SCIT) Joonsang Baek said while users think Google is a free service, many do not realise users trade their privacy and data to use Google systems like Google Chrome. 

“Google, a private company, primarily earns its revenue from advertisements. This is important to remember when we use their free services like the Chrome browser and email,” Prof. Baek said. 

“These services are not truly free, as we are essentially trading our privacy for them. 

“As long as we want their free services, we can’t really protect our privacy from them.” 

@uowtv_ Did you know that Google was tracking users browsing habits in incognito mode? Come along with Melissa to find out what students on campus think! #google #icognito #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #uowcreative ♬ original sound – UOWTV

Another remedial implementation required Google to block third-party cookies when utilising incognito mode and update its disclosure information to inform users of what specific data is collected when browsing.

Prof. Baek said further security measures would ensure user safety on Google’s platforms. 

 “They should delete our personal data regularly and give clearer and simpler warnings about what users agree to when they subscribe to or use their services,” Prof. Baek said.

“In my opinion, more stringent privacy laws, such as the EU’s GDPR, should be in place to prevent big tech companies from illegally collecting user data.” 

IT Network Engineer at Falcon Tech Pty Ltd Chris Boustani is “not surprised” Google was tracking data. 

“The truth of the matter is even though you assume these big techs will do the right thing ethically, they don’t,” Mr Boustani said.

“Unfortunately, Google is a business. According to Google, if you read the [terms and conditions], it basically says while you are using our platform all data belongs to us.”  

On Monday, Google settled the lawsuit, and agreed to delete information that makes data identifiable when browsing in incognito mode for the next five years. 

Mr Boustani said there are steps users should take to ensure their privacy is protected. 

“Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to hide, especially now where every device you purchase must be linked to an email address registration,” Mr Boustani said. 

“For the average person, I would get another device to browse the internet that is not connected to any email registration or is registered to an alias email, and never log into anything that can be traced back to you personally.”

A hearing is set for July 30, 2024, where Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers will approve or reject the deal.