Google is facing a collective lawsuit in the United Kingdom over its alleged snooping of iPhone users, according to a new report in the Financial Times. According to the lawsuit, led by a former director of the consumer group Which?, Google illegally gathered the personal data of millions of iPhone users in the U.K. between 2011 and 2012.

Veteran consumer rights campaigner Richard Lloyd alleges the search giant bypassed the default privacy settings on Apple's smartphones which allowed it to track the online behavior of users browsing in Safari. Google then allegedly used the data in its DoubleClick business, which lets advertisers target content based on user browsing habits.

google safari ios tracking

Original explanation of the "Safari Workaround" in 2012 WSJ article

The lawsuit, filed in London's High Court, claims Google's "Safari Workaround" breached the U.K. Data Protection Act by taking personal information without permission.

"In all my years speaking up for consumers, I've rarely seen such a massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own," said Mr Lloyd, who has set up a group called Google You Owe Us.

Google said: "This is not new – we have defended similar cases before. We don't believe it has any merit and we will contest it."

The case Google refers to occurred in the U.S. in 2012, after it and several other advertising agencies were discovered to be circumventing privacy protections in Safari for iOS in order to track users through ads on numerous popular websites.

At the time, Safari blocked several types of tracking, but made an exception for websites where a person interacted in some way — by filling out a form, for example. Google added coding to some of its ads that made Safari think that a person was submitting an invisible form to Google, and thus Safari let Google install a cookie on the user's phone.

Google halted the practice once it was reported by the Wall Street Journal, but argued that the tracking was unintentional and did not harm consumers. However, that didn't wash with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and the company was forced to pay a record $22.5 million fine over its use of the tactic.

Around 5.4 million people in Britain are said to have owned an iPhone between June 2011 and February 2012, when Google's "Safari Workaround" was active, and could be eligible for compensation, according to the U.K. lawsuit.

Today's news also marks the first time a collective action has been brought in the U.K. against a leading tech company over alleged misuse of data. "Collective action" is where one person represents a group with a shared grievance, similar to a class action lawsuit in the U.S.

Lloyd, who has secured £15.5 million ($20.8 million) in funds from a litigation company, said he expected each claimant would receive several hundred pounds in the event that they win the case. As a ballpark figure, a claim by 5.4 million people for £500 each would result in a £2.7 billion ($3.63 billion) payout for Google.

"We think there is a massive gap in the law in terms of consumer redress around data rights being breached," said Lloyd. He hoped the legal battle would result in a clear set of guidelines and precedent for consumers as to how they could act collectively in similar future cases.

Top Rated Comments

Darmok N Jalad Avatar
68 months ago
“It wasn’t intentional and we have now disabled it,” says Google seemingly every time they get caught.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NBAasDOGG Avatar
68 months ago
Once you look back at your life and thinking what could I have done differently...

I should have become a lawyer.
Lawyer? I still would have felt sorry for you :D

Why not chemist, mathematician, statistician, biologist or a physicist (and other related)
In other words, people that actually do some proper stuff...
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JosephAW Avatar
68 months ago
Translation: $0.75 on your settlement check. Lawyers, $20 million.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rtomyj Avatar
68 months ago
To those saying people are paranoid about Google tracking you. Here you go. Feel bad for the people paying $800 for the new pixels. Paying a premium and still getting milked through ad tracking.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mike MA Avatar
68 months ago
Lawyer? I still would have felt sorry for you :D

Why not chemist, mathematician, statistician, biologist or a physicist (and other related)
In other words, people that actually do some proper stuff...
You mean like creating some real value, right? :)
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mike MA Avatar
68 months ago
Once you look back at your life and thinking what could I have done differently...

I should have become a lawyer.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 16

iOS 16.3 Now Available for Your iPhone With These 4 New Features

Friday February 3, 2023 1:13 pm PST by
Apple released iOS 16.3 in late January following nearly six weeks of beta testing. The software update is available for the iPhone 8 and newer, and while it is a relatively minor update, it still includes a handful of new features, changes, and bug fixes. Below, we've recapped new features in iOS 16.3, including support for physical security keys as a two-factor authentication option for...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

Gurman: Apple Considering New High-End iPhone Alongside Pro and Pro Max

Sunday February 5, 2023 6:07 am PST by
Apple has discussed selling a new top-of-the-line iPhone alongside the Pro and Pro Max models in 2024 at the earliest, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Based on this timeframe, the device would be part of the iPhone 16 lineup or later. In a September 2022 edition of his weekly "Power On" newsletter, Gurman said there was "potential" for an iPhone 15 Ultra to replace the iPhone 15 Pro...
ipad air purple

Deals: M1 iPad Air Hits Record-Low Prices at TigerDirect, Starting at $313.99 (48% Off) [Updated]

Saturday February 4, 2023 10:05 am PST by
Online retailer TigerDirect has slashed pricing on the M1 iPad Air in several colors, offering the base 64GB configuration for just $313.99 in Purple and Pink. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with TigerDirect. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. That's a savings of 48% compared to Apple's normal $599.00...
mac studio pink

Apple May Not Launch Updated Mac Studio With M2 Ultra Chip Due to Similarity With Upcoming Mac Pro

Sunday February 5, 2023 6:06 am PST by
A new version of the Mac Studio with the "M2 Ultra" chip is unlikely to arrive in the near future, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. In the latest edition of his "Power On" newsletter, Gurman explained that since the upcoming Apple silicon Mac Pro is "very similar in functionality to the Mac Studio," Apple may wait until the release of M3- or M4-series chips to update the machine, or...
HomePod 2 White and Midnight Feature Purple Orange

Apple Releases tvOS 16.3.1 and HomePod 16.3.1 Software Updates

Monday February 6, 2023 10:13 am PST by
Apple today released new tvOS 16.3.1 and HomePod 16.3.1 software updates, with the software coming two weeks after the tvOS 16.3 and HomePod 16.3 updates were released. According to Apple's release notes for HomePod software 16.3.1, the update includes general performance and stability improvements. Notes for tvOS 16.3.1 are unavailable as of yet, but are probably similar to the HomePod...
iPhone 15 Pro Blue Feature

iPhone 15 Pro 'Buttonless Design' Rumors: Everything We Know

Monday February 6, 2023 7:44 am PST by
The iPhone 15 Pro models will feature a "buttonless design" thanks to additional Taptic Engines, according to multiple corroborated reports, so what do we know about the change so far? Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo was first to report that the volume and power buttons on this year's two high-end iPhone models will adopt a solid-state design, similar to the iPhone 7's home button, replacing a...
iphone ultra concept daehnert

'iPhone Ultra' Concept Envisions Apple's Rumored Future Top-Tier Smartphone

Tuesday February 7, 2023 5:38 am PST by
Apple has reportedly considered releasing a new top-of-the-line iPhone alongside future Pro and Pro Max models, tentatively referred to as "iPhone Ultra," and one designer has taken it upon himself to envision what such a device could potentially look like. German industrial designer Jonas Daehnert came up with this impressive-looking concept (pictured) by marrying design elements of the...
webkit vs chromium feature

Google Working on Browser for iOS That Would Break Apple's App Store Rules

Saturday February 4, 2023 1:30 am PST by
Google's Chromium developers are working on an experimental web browser for iOS that would break Apple's browser engine restrictions, The Register reports. The experimental browser, which is being actively pursued by developers, uses Google's Blink engine. Yet if Google attempted to release it on the App Store, it would not pass Apple's App Review process. Apple's App Store rules dictate...