Google Facing UK Lawsuit Over Alleged Tracking of Safari Users Between 2011-12

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.

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

(View all)
Avatar
14 months ago
“It wasn’t intentional and we have now disabled it,” says Google seemingly every time they get caught.
Rating: 12 Votes
Avatar
14 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...
Rating: 5 Votes
Avatar
14 months ago
Translation: $0.75 on your settlement check. Lawyers, $20 million.
Rating: 4 Votes
Avatar
14 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.
Rating: 3 Votes
Avatar
14 months ago

“It wasn’t intentional and we have now disabled it,” says Google seemingly every time they get caught.


Yeah....Look in the Safari/Advanced/Website Data
Even in iOS 11.1 the cookies are still there. I was able to see those, both visible and invisible
using an app on my Mac that let you browse your backup.
I just discovered that they look like 0 kb but actually they are not 0 kb. The folder hosting the cookie-data shows 0 kb, but inside the folder there are so many files that go from 4 kb to 33 kb, total of 450 kb.
0 is written on the url-name of the folder

One of the invisible is
https_mail.google.com_0

What is even worse is that I thought I had only one persistent cookie but actually there are 3 more and they don't show in Safari/Advanced/Website Data
The visible cookie I have shows 0 but actually is 528 kb and what is worse is adding files almost every day.

The files are 3 kinds

.wal-shm

.db

.wal

and there are several of them, Google has 96, total of 2.1 Mb and it's one of the invisible cookies, adding files everyday as well

Good that Google "is not spying any longer" :confused:

I use 1Blocker and I always browse in private mode...that is the result!:(
Rating: 2 Votes
Avatar
14 months ago
Make it hurt, UK!
Rating: 2 Votes
Avatar
14 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? :)
Rating: 2 Votes
Avatar
14 months ago
Once you look back at your life and thinking what could I have done differently...

I should have become a lawyer.
Rating: 2 Votes
Avatar
14 months ago

Don't think it's that big a deal. Here's why...
I heard an interview with the guy running this thing and he was asked if he used Google. He said that he didn't.
What about YouTube? was the next question. Yes, that's right - he still uses it.

I remember Apple slating Google for years and now they have a YT channel and even back then it was the default search engine on iOS and probably OSX too. They also use Google analytics.

The mantra most people and almost all companies live by, "If you can't feel the pain financially, it's not real pain." Lot's on this forum are exactly the same. Myself included.

If you knowingly use any google product you are partly to blame also.


Breaking the Public Trust is always a big deal - this is where the government who sets the rules of the road needs to step in and make such mistakes so financially painful that execs make sure such things don't happen going forward. Unfortunately Google "mistakes" like this keep coming to light fairly frequently lately - far from their "Do No Evil.." pledge.

Regarding using Google products, you have a point - but its also relevant to point out, that for Video, YouTube is the Internet and has been for years. Once someone has cornered a market, there is little choice for the consumer. Facebook is trying to do the same with VR via Oculus (at a much, much earlier stage).
Rating: 1 Votes
Avatar
14 months ago

“It wasn’t intentional and we have now disabled it,” says Google seemingly every time they get caught.

And they will just find another way. They will always get a free pass amongst the tech community because everybody is making money with Google Ads.
Rating: 1 Votes
[ Read All Comments ]