Google is being taken to court over allegations it collected personal data of millions of unknowing iPhone users. Up to 5.4 million people in Britain could be entitled to compensation if the class action is successful.
A group led by Richard Lloyd, the executive director of consumer body Which?, claims the internet giant unlawfully collected personal information by bypassing the default settings on the iPhone and tracking online behavior of people using the Safari browser between June 2011 and February 2012.
Google then allegedly used the data in its DoubleClick advertising business, which enables advertisers to target content according to a user’s browsing habits. Such action is a “violation of trust” against iPhone users, Lloyd said. He added that the lawsuit is unprecedented and represents “one of the biggest fights of my life.”
The lawsuit, filed in London’s High Court, alleged Google’s tactic, known as the ‘Safari Workaround,’ breached UK data protection laws by taking personal information without permission.
“I believe 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. “In all my years speaking up for consumers, I’ve rarely seen such as massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own.”
Lloyd, who has set up the group Google You Owe Us, added: “Google owes all of those affected fairness, trust and money. By joining together, we can show Google that they can’t get away with taking our data without our consent, and that no matter how large and powerful they are, nobody is above the law.”
Roughly 5.4 million people in Britain had an iPhone between June 2011 and February 2012 and could be eligible for compensation, according to the claim. Although the size of any potential payout would be determined by the court, Lloyd said he expected each claimant would receive several hundred pounds.
Lloyd has secured £15.5 million in backing from Therium, a company that funds litigation and has previously backed group claims such as the consumer action against Volkswagen in the scandal over diesel emissions.
A Google spokesperson said: “This is not new. We have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.”
The case is the first time such a collective action – in which one person represents a group with a shared grievance, akin to a US-style class action – has been brought in Britain against a leading tech company over alleged misuse of data.
Google has already paid millions of dollars to US states and the US Federal Trade Commission over the Safari security bypass.