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Google hit with class action lawsuit over alleged iPhone data harvesting

Google was formally notified of the claim back in July, with the search giant saying it intends to contest the lawsuit in court.

Published onNovember 30, 2017

If you’re one of five million Britons who used an iPhone a few years back, you might want to pay close attention to a class action lawsuit launched against Google over the company’s alleged data snooping.

According to The Guardian, a group called Google You Owe Us claims that Google bypassed the iPhone’s default privacy settings to collect personal information between June 2011 and February 2012. More specifically, the group accuses Google of bypassing those restrictions to track users’ internet browsing history, which the company then used to “sell a targeted advertising service.”

Google You Owe Us, headed up by former executive director of consumer body Which? Richard Lloyd, also claims that around 5.4 million Britons used the iPhone during that time period and that, as a result, they are entitled to compensation that might stem from this lawsuit.

Lloyd, who is being advised by law firm Mischon de Reya, says that Google’s unlawful collection of personal information breaches the principles in the UK’s data protection laws:

I believe that what Google did was simply against the law. Their actions have affected millions, and we’ll be asking the courts to remedy this major breach of trust.
Through this action, we will send a strong message to Google and other tech giants in Silicon Valley that we’re not afraid to fight back if our laws are broken.

Indeed, there might be some merit to this lawsuit, if you look at where it stems from. Back in 2012, Google, along with Facebook and online advertising networks, reportedly used a workaround to bypass privacy restrictions on the desktop and iOS Safari browsers. The workaround allowed them to place cookies on your computer, and not the yummy kind, either. Rather, they were the kind that tracked your browsing habits.

At the time, Google said that the practice was limited to just Google+, and that Safari users who opted out of the company’s interest-based program were not affected. Even so, it’s clear that folks still don’t buy the company’s explanation.

It also doesn’t help that Google was ordered to pay a $22.5 million fine for the same thing back in 2012, so there is some sort of precedent. According to a Google spokesperson, the lawsuit has no merit and that the company will contest it in court, so we’ll be sure to pay attention to what happens next.

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