Google has been sued in the UK for the alleged tracking and collation of personal information from 4.4 million iPhone users. The collection action against the search giant is being led by Richard Lloyd, the former Which? director who claims that Google bypassed the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari web browser that comes pre-installed on iPhone.
In the suit filed with the high court, Lloyd says Google was responsible for “clandestine tracking and collation” between August 2011 and February 2012 to divide people into categories for advertisers. According to The Guardian, Lloyd’s campaign group Google You Owe Us told the court that the search giant collected information including race, physical and mental health, political leanings, sexuality, social class, financial, shopping habits and location data. The group states that the information was then aggregated and users were put into groups to make it easier for advertisers to target them.
Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Lloyd told the court that Google involved in an activity known as the “Safari Workaround” which gathers data using “clandestine tracking and collation.” Tomlinson said the activity was identified and exposed by a PhD researcher in 2012 and that Google has already paid $39.5 million to settle claims in the US relating to this practice.
In 2012, Google was fined $22.5 million for this practice by the US Federal Trade Commission and it was forced to pay $17 million to 37 US states. “I believe that what Google did was quite simply against the law. Their actions have affected millions in England and Wales and we’ll be asking the judge to ensure they are held to account in our courts,” The Guardian quotes Lloyd ahead of the hearing.
The campaign group led by Lloyd hopes to win £1 billion in compensation for an estimated 4.4 million iPhone users. The court filings show that Google You Owe Us could be seeking as much as £3.2 billion in compensation and individual claimants could receive £750 in compensation if the ruling goes in their favor.
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Google, meanwhile, is contending the type of “representative action” being brought against it as unsuitable and claims that it should not go ahead. Lawyers representing Google in the suit argue that there is no suggestion that Safari Workaround resulted in any information being disclosed to third parties.