An unprecedented class action lawsuit has been levied at Google in the United Kingdom, claiming that the company owes compensation to millions of iPhone users in the country.
A consumer campaign group called “Google You Owe Us” is now taking Google to court in the UK, alleging that the company had unlawfully collected personal information by bypassing certain privacy settings on the iPhone between June 2011 and February 2012. The group says that about 5.4 million people in England and Wales may be eligible for up to £100s in compensation — if the suit is successful.
The lawsuit claims that Google used a workaround to track “internet browsing history” by allowing the company to deposit cookies on an iPhone’s default Safari browser, even if the device was set to block cookies. The private browsing data was then sold to targeted advertising services. Google, on the other hand, has countered by claiming the practice was only used on the company’s failed Google+ social media site.
Richard Lloyd, a former director of consumer rights group Which?, is now taking the Mountain View tech giant to court, alongside UK-based law firm Mischon de Reya. “I believe that what Google did was simply against the law. Their actions have affected millions, and we’ll be asking the courts to remedy this major breach of trust,” Lloyd told The Guardian.
“Through this action, we will send a strong message to Google and other tech giants in Silicon Valley that we’re not afraid to fight back if our laws are broken,” Lloyd added. In addition to Google, Facebook and other online advertising networks were found to be using the workaround, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2012.
The suit is unusual for the UK; class action lawsuits of this scale are rarer in the country than in the United States. Google, for its part, said it would defend its case. “This is not new,” a Google spokesperson said. “We have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.”
The consumer group expects its case to be heard by Britain’s High Court sometime next year.