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.

google safari ios tracking

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.

Popular Stories

iPhone 17 Plus Feature

iPhone 17 Lineup Specs Detail Display Upgrade and New High-End Model

Monday July 22, 2024 4:33 am PDT by
Key details about the overall specifications of the iPhone 17 lineup have been shared by the leaker known as "Ice Universe," clarifying several important aspects of next year's devices. Reports in recent months have converged in agreement that Apple will discontinue the "Plus" iPhone model in 2025 while introducing an all-new iPhone 17 "Slim" model as an even more high-end option sitting...
iPhone SE 4 Vertical Camera Feature

iPhone SE 4 Rumored to Use Same Rear Chassis as iPhone 16

Friday July 19, 2024 7:16 am PDT by
Apple will adopt the same rear chassis manufacturing process for the iPhone SE 4 that it is using for the upcoming standard iPhone 16, claims a new rumor coming out of China. According to the Weibo-based leaker "Fixed Focus Digital," the backplate manufacturing process for the iPhone SE 4 is "exactly the same" as the standard model in Apple's upcoming iPhone 16 lineup, which is expected to...
Apple TV Plus Feature 2 Magenta and Blue

Apple TV+ Curbs Costs After Expensive Projects Fail to Capture Viewers

Monday July 22, 2024 5:11 am PDT by
Apple is scaling back its Hollywood spending after investing over $20 billion in original programming with limited success, Bloomberg reports. This shift comes after the streaming service, which launched in 2019, struggled to capture a significant share of the market, accounting for only 0.2% of TV viewership in the U.S., compared to Netflix's 8%. Despite heavy investment, critical acclaim,...
iPhone 16 Pro Sizes Feature

iPhone 16 Series Is Just Two Months Away: Everything We Know

Monday July 15, 2024 4:44 am PDT by
Apple typically releases its new iPhone series around mid-September, which means we are about two months out from the launch of the iPhone 16. Like the iPhone 15 series, this year's lineup is expected to stick with four models – iPhone 16, iPhone 16 Plus, iPhone 16 Pro, and iPhone 16 Pro Max – although there are plenty of design differences and new features to take into account. To bring ...
iPhone 17 Plus Feature Purple

These 5 Features Will Make the iPhone 17 the Biggest Update in Years

Monday July 22, 2024 4:02 pm PDT by
The upcoming iPhone 16 models that we're expecting to see in September are going to be quite similar to the iPhone 15 models, but rumors suggest that Apple is making big changes in 2025. We've been hearing hints of an all-new device in the iPhone lineup, and it may be the most expensive iPhone Apple has offered to date. New 'Slim' Design Rumors have taken to referring to the new iPhone 17...
iPhone SE 4 Thumb 1

iPhone SE 4 Rumored to Launch Early Next Year With OLED Display, 48MP Camera, and More

Monday July 22, 2024 7:22 am PDT by
The fourth-generation iPhone SE will offer a series of major upgrades over the current model, the leaker known as "Ice Universe" claims. The information was listed in a post on Weibo, which also detailed the specifications of the iPhone 17 lineup. As previously rumored, the fourth-generation iPhone SE is expected to feature Face ID and USB-C, marking a major upgrade from current and previous ...
bsod

Microsoft Blames European Commission for Major Worldwide Outage

Monday July 22, 2024 11:55 am PDT by
Last Friday, a major CrowdStrike outage impacted PCs running Microsoft Windows, causing worldwide issues affecting airlines, retailers, banks, hospitals, rail networks, and more. Computers were stuck in continuous recovery loops, rendering them unusable. The failure was caused by an update to the CrowdStrike Falcon antivirus software that auto-installed on Windows 10 PCs, but Mac and Linux...

Top Rated Comments

StellarVixen Avatar
76 months 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.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
StellarVixen Avatar
76 months 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.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Skeptical.me Avatar
76 months 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.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
StellarVixen Avatar
76 months 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.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Steve121178 Avatar
76 months ago
Thank goodness the UK courts are pragmatic and deal in common sense.
UK courts & common sense in the same sentence?
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Skeptical.me Avatar
76 months 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.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)