Google is facing a large-scale lawsuit over claims it unlawfully collected data from millions of British users. According to BBC News, it is the first legal claim of its kind in the UK.
A group calling itself Google You Owe Us, led by former Which director Richard Lloyd has accused the tech giant of unlawfully collecting data from 5.4 million users by bypassing privacy settings on iPhones.
The claim centres on the allegation that Google used cookies, which enable the collection of information from devices. It is claimed that for several months in 2011 and 2012 Google placed ad-tracking cookies on devices using the web browser Safari, despite the app being set by default to block that type of cookie.
The move, known as the Safari workaround, would have enabled Google to run targeted ads on the browser and thereby access revenue. The legal claim focuses on iPhone users but it is claimed that many devices were targeted.
Lloyd said: “In all my years speaking up for customers, I’ve rarely seen such a massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own.” It is estimated that claimants in the legal action could be awarded several hundred pounds each.
Lloyd says Google has told him he must pursue a claim in the United States if he wishes to take the matter further. However, the unprecedented mass legal action is being conducted in the UK by law firm Mishcon de Reya, which specialises in large-scale actions.
Google paid a record $22.5m (£16.8m) in settlement of a case brought by the US Federal Trade Commission regarding the Safari workaround in 2012.