New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

U.K. Court Blocks Mass Legal Action Over Google's Alleged Tracking of Safari Users

London's High Court on Monday blocked attempts to bring a collective lawsuit against Google over alleged historical snooping of millions of iPhone users in the United Kingdom (via Reuters).

The lawsuit's claimants alleged that Google illegally gathered the personal data of over 4 million iPhone users in the U.K. between 2011 and 2012 by bypassing the default privacy settings on Apple's smartphones which allowed it to track the online behavior of users browsing in Safari.

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

Veteran consumer rights campaigner Richard Lloyd, who led the collective 20,000-strong lawsuit, had claimed that Google's "Safari Workaround" breached the U.K. Data Protection Act by taking personal information without permission, and wanted the tech giant to pay out several hundred dollars in damages to each person affected. 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.

When the case was first brought in November 2017, it was 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.

However, Google said it was "not new" and vowed to defend itself, having defended similar cases before. "We don't believe it has any merit and we will contest it," said the tech giant at the time. On Monday, the court ruled in Google's favor.
"Today's judgment is extremely disappointing and effectively leaves millions of people without any practical way to seek redress and compensation when their personal data has been misused," Lloyd said in a statement.

"Google's business model is based on using personal data to target adverts to consumers and they must ask permission before using this data. The court accepted that people did not give permission in this case yet slammed the door shut on holding Google to account."
A similar case occurred in the U.S. in 2012, when Google 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.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.



Top Rated Comments

(View all)

2 weeks ago
Same as every time Google is caught doing something absolutely horrible. *Crickets chirp and tumbleweed rolling.*

No any mention of any gate, no too much media publicity, media doesn't seem to care much, except few stories here and there.
Rating: 23 Votes
2 weeks ago

I'm so sick of Google's business model, and their sheer lack of concern for data privacy. I understad tracking isn't just limited to FB and Google, but they seem to be leading the way. I'm glad I've shut down and deleted both FB and Google accounts. As well as deleted all of their Apps from my iOS devices.


This isn't your normal tracking. This is typical intrusive spyware behavior.
Rating: 23 Votes
2 weeks ago
I'm so sick of Google's business model, and their sheer lack of concern for data privacy. I understad tracking isn't just limited to FB and Google, but they seem to be leading the way. I'm glad I've shut down and deleted both FB and Google accounts. As well as deleted all of their Apps from my iOS devices.
Rating: 21 Votes
2 weeks ago

Perhaps if there were a "GoogleRumors.com" site there might be. Given this is an Apple-focused site, it's hardly surprising it's so focused on good and bad Apple news.

Having read the original article, it's very light on details as to why it was blocked. If these companies aren't held accountable, they've shown time and again they don't have any 'conscience' of their own.


You missed the point by a mile. This has nothing to do with Mac Rumors, I am talking about media as whole.

It wasn't the MacRumors who started the gate nonsense, but tech YouTubers. Same tech YouTubers who are very loud when Apple does something bad, but surprisingly silent when Google keeps doing absolutely disgraceful things over and over.
Rating: 18 Votes
2 weeks ago

Thank goodness the UK courts are pragmatic and deal in common sense.


UK courts & common sense in the same sentence?
Rating: 15 Votes
2 weeks ago
**** Google, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, FaceBook. I'm sick and tired of all these so called "Social Media" giants invading and making money off of us by stealing and selling our private information to 3rd parties without our consent! It's time we do something about this as a whole. Time to fight back. Delete and stop using anything related to these evil corporations. I'm glad I deleted FaceBook, and replace Google with DuckDuckGo. I don't use those other "social media" sites so I'm good.

We can't tolerate this type of behavior anymore. I'm sick about hearing about all these privacy breaches that have been going on. It's getting way out of hand. Boycott these corporations. What they are doing is illegal.
Rating: 13 Votes
2 weeks ago

Same as every time Google is caught doing something absolutely horrible. *Crickets chirp and tumbleweed rolling.*

No any mention of any gate, no too much media publicity, media doesn't seem to care much, except few stories here and there.


That's the thing that baffles me, the lack of concern by the general public. They seem to either not understand the ethics that apply to such intrusion or simply don't care.
[doublepost=1538996695][/doublepost]

This isn't your normal tracking. This is typical intrusive spyware behavior.


Agreed. Certainly is.
Rating: 13 Votes
2 weeks ago

That's the thing that baffles me, the lack of concern by the general public. They seem to either not understand the ethics that apply to such intrusion or simply don't care.
[doublepost=1538996695][/doublepost]

Agreed. Certainly is.

It’s lack of understanding. Look at me for example. While I’m a regular visitor to this forum and love technology, unlike my husband I wasn’t formally educated about tech. I probably have an above average awareness compared to people who don’t read tech news and forums, but I’m still learning as I go.

I thought our laws protected me in some measure in that if Google lays out specific terms and gives me the tools to set the parameters I am comfortable with, that I was in fact being granted the knowledge and control over my data that their terms and instructions spell out that I am.

For my part I do read all their long terms of service forms. It’s tedious but it’s my responsibility. I understand if I’m not paying cash for their services I have to pay with data. And I looked at what my control panel was supposed to let them have and I decided I could live with it. And I trusted that because of our laws, the control panel would work as Google cheerily says it will.

And I guess in the US and with the fines they had to pay, the laws can work as I expected.

But this...this is them circumventing Apple’s terms. And it’s just plain deceitful and unethical. And as regards our so called control panels, they were caught lying about how those worked, too. (Correction: the control panels DO work but they used other methods to get location data from Android phones. Also, you do need to check your control panel setting regularly to make sure your interactions with Google partners or apps didn’t inadvertently change your settings.)

This is tough for me because I also use and absolutely love Android phones. I love my Google Pixel phone. I am going to have to rethink that.

Am I slow to wake up? Yes. Did I fail to understand the extent of Google’s willingness to be underhanded and their greed? Yes. Because their customers already willingly give up almost everything. It’s hard to fathom how much more they insist on taking through outright deception and subterfuge. Am I naive? Not usually, but I’m feeling pretty naive right now.
Rating: 10 Votes
2 weeks ago

Same as every time Google is caught doing something absolutely horrible. *Crickets chirp and tumbleweed rolling.*

No any mention of any gate, no too much media publicity, media doesn't seem to care much, except few stories here and there.

Google can literally do anything and nobody would bat an eye. Why? Because Google holds everybody by the balls, via Search (every media outlet), youtube (all media/youtubers that get viewers/income through it), and GMail (roughly everyone). This is why the "Do no evil" motto was extremely critical and the old Google was aware of it. But then Google changed, and now they'll just do anything, knowing that they get a free pass.
Rating: 8 Votes
2 weeks ago

Absolutely - best legal system in the world. Have you any idea how many countries send their legal people to the UK for training and observation of our system?


The British legal system has been broken for three decades.

Look how many people escape justice thanks to their legal teams exploiting loopholes etc.

Look how many terrorists the Home Secretary tried to kick out only for the wonderful British justice system to overrule the Home Secretary due to the terrorists legal team arguing it's against his human rights.

Look how many stone wall cases against big businesses always get thrown out of court.

It's bollocks.
Rating: 7 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]