google iphone

Google illegally harvested the data of 5.4m iPhone users in the UK, lawsuit claims

Image credit: dt

Google is being sued in the UK under a class-action-style suit that alleges that the search giant unlawfully collected the personal data of iPhone users for a period spanning 2011-2012.

A campaign called ‘Google you owe us’ has been launched by former government advisor Richard Lloyd, who is an executive director of the consumer group Which?

It alleges that Google bypassed the default privacy settings on the iPhone’s Safari browser, which has been dubbed “the Safari Workaround”.

The workaround tracked internet browsing history, which Google then used to sell a targeted advertising service.

“We are taking Google to court for its actions, because we believe that Google owes us trust, fairness and money,” the campaign states in its FAQ.

“We want to make sure that Google face the consequences for breaching both our trust and the law. If successful, those affected by Google’s actions and who qualify will get the compensation they are owed. You will be able to sign up to receive this once the case has been won.”

The claim covers residents of England and Wales between 1 June 2011 and 15 February 2012, who met the following qualifying criteria:

  1. registered with an Apple ID
  2. were in lawful possession of an iPhone
  3. used the Safari browser to access the internet
  4. kept the default security settings in the Safari browser
  5. did not opt-out of tracking and collation via Google’s Ads Preference Manager

If the case is successful, claimants will be asked to register in order to receive money they are owed, which is “likely” to be under £1,000. However, in certain circumstances, Google’s alleged actions might also constitute a ‘misuse of private information’ in which case any settlements could be higher.

Lee Munson, security researcher at Comparitech.com, said: “Given how Google has previously been fined heavily for monitoring browsing histories, it is not that surprising to learn about its alleged historic collection of data from iPhone users.

“Also, considering how that data was reportedly collected, despite Apple having privacy settings in place to prevent it, it would not be surprising at all to find out that this is not an isolated case.

“While the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will do little to change the illegality of collecting personal information through such underhand means, it will up the ante in terms of the financial penalties that could be handed to any company that engages in any such activity.

“Hopefully, therefore, this will be the last time we hear of any alleged surreptitious data collection from unknowing victims who may have believed they had taken the necessary steps to prevent it occurring.”

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