Google being sued for 'planting secret cookies on 5.4 million iPhone users'

Friday, 01 Dec, 2017

Richard Lloyd, who is now leading the fight against Google in the United Kingdom, told The Guardian that he wants to spread the word about Google's malpractices and send a message that people are not scared to fight back if their privacy is violated by rich Silicon Valley giants.

The campaign group is now launching a major campaign - thought to be the first of its kind - that reportedly hopes to land at least £1 billion in compensation for an estimated 5.4 million users of the device.

Google had apparently used its technical prowess to get hold of personal data stored in the iPhone's native browser, which uses Google's search engine by default, through planting tracker cookies that could hoover up data and feed it back into Google advertising system. In an interview granted to the BBC, Google stated that an action of this sort was "not new".

Google already paid a fine of US$22.5 million levied by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over its collection practices during that time.

Known as "the Safari workaround", the cookies made it possible for Google to track users' internet browsing history, which the company then used to sell targeted advertising.

The group claims that between June 2011 and February 2012, Google collected personal information on iPhones by bypassing the privacy settings on the smartphone's Safari browser. The move is the first mass legal action of this scale undertaken in the country.

The cost of the case - filed in London's High Court and due for hearing in early 2018 - including insurance in case Lloyd loses is being covered by a litigation funding group, Therium.

Google has dismissed the case and said it is ready to fight it in court.

The complaint is that for several months in 2011 and 2012 Google placed ad-tracking cookies on the devices of Safari users which is set by default to block such cookies.

Lloyd continued to state that Google's "breach of trust" has lead to a manipulation of millions of British citizens. "We don't believe it has any merit". The tech giant is accused of breaching principles in the UK's data protection laws in a "violation of trust" against iPhone users.

In 2013 Google had to pay a $17 million (£10.5m) settlement to 37 U.S. states to resolve the allegations the company violated consumer privacy by using tracking cookies.

Lloyd said on Thursday that Google's actions were "quite simply against the law".