Home Security Google faces US$4.3b UK case over tracking 4.4m iPhone users
Google faces yet another case where it is claimed to have snooped on users. Google faces yet another case where it is claimed to have snooped on users. Pixabay Featured

A British collective is suing Google over what it claims is the search company's tracking of 4.4 million iPhone users between August 2011 and February 2012 using a workaround to bypass privacy settings in the Safari browser.

Bloomberg reported that court documents showed the claims could run as to as much as £3.2 billion (US$4.3 billion).

The Google You Owe Us campaign had its first hearing in the High Court on Monday, where lawyers argued that the information collected was sold to companies for targeted advertising, The Guardian reported.

On its website, the campaign says: "We believe that Google took millions of iPhone users’ personal information illegally in 2011 and 2012.

"Google did this by bypassing default privacy settings on the iPhone’s Safari browser. This has been called 'the Safari Workaround'. The workaround tracked Internet browsing history, which Google then used to sell a targeted advertising service.

"Google makes huge amounts of money from selling targeted advertising. In 2016, they earned $80 billion from advertising alone."

The campaign's lawyers said race, physical and mental heath, political leanings, sexuality, social class, financial, shopping habits and location data were among the details collected by the search engine.

Google has already paid fines amount to US$39.5 million for similar practices in the US – a fine of US$22.5 million was paid to the Federal Trade Commission and US$17 million was paid to 37 US states.

The campaign is led by Richard Lloyd, a former director of the group Which?. Before Monday's hearing, Lloyd said: “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.”

In its defence, Google has claimed there is no suggestion that the workaround caused disclosure of personal data to third parties.

Acting for Google, Anthony White, QC, said: “The court should not permit a single person to co-opt the data protection rights of millions of individuals for the purpose of advancing a personal ‘campaign’ agenda and should not allow them to place the onus on individuals who do not wish to be associated with that campaign to take positive steps to actively disassociate themselves from it.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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