Google may face £3.2 billion claim in UK iPhone privacy lawsuit

iPhone users in the UK have sued Google in the High Court for as much as £3.2 billion pounds ($4.29 billion) for the alleged “clandestine tracking and collation” of personal information of 4.4 million users.

The secret collection of data was discovered by a Ph.D. researcher in 2012, who termed it as “Safari Workaround”. The lawsuit claims that Google had bypassed privacy settings of Safari browser on Apple iPhone devices between August 2011 and February 2012. The campaign group representing iPhone users – Google You Owe Us – which is being led by Richard Lloyd, a former Executive Director of the consumer watchdog publication Which?

According to The Guardian, the information collected by Google included data about race, physical and mental health, financial data, sexuality, social class, political leanings, shopping habits and location data to divide people into categories for advertisers.

Lloyd before the hearing 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.”

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Lloyd, said information was then “aggregated” and users were placed in groups such as “football lovers” or “current affairs enthusiasts” for the purpose of advertising.

However, Anthony White QC, for Google, claimed that no personal information was disclosed to third parties through the Safari Workaround, and that there is no way to find out if any individuals were affected by the aggregation. White said that the purpose of Lloyd’s claim was to “pursue a campaign for accountability and retribution” against the company, rather than finding justice for individuals.

He 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.”

The Google UK communications director, Tom Price said: “The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. This case relates to events that took place over six years ago and that we addressed at the time.

“We believe it has no merit and should be dismissed. We’ve filed evidence in support of that view and look forward to making our case in Court.”

In the past, Google has already paid $39.5 million to settle claims in the U.S. relating to the Safari Workaround practice. In 2012, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission had fined Google $22.5 million for this practice and a year later, they were asked to pay $17 million for settlement with 37 states and the District of Columbia.

Source: The Guardian