Google faces class action lawsuit for gathering personal data from millions of iPhone users

A group going by the name Google You Owe Us is taking Google to court in the UK, complaining that the company harvested personal data from 5.4 million iPhone users.

The group is led by Richard Lloyd, director of consumer group Which?, and it alleges that Google bypassed privacy settings on iPhones between June 2011 and February 2012. The lawsuit seeks compensation for those affected by what is described as a "violation of trust."

Google is accused of breaching UK data protection laws, and Lloyd says that this is "one of the biggest fights of my life." Even if the case is successful, the people represented by Google You Owe Us are not expected to receive more than a few hundred pounds each, and this is not an amount that would make much of an impact on Google's coffers.

But Lloyd says the case is not just about trying to win financial compensation for people:

I want to spread the world about our claim. Google owes all of those affected fairness, trust and money. By joining together, we can show Google that they can’t get away with taking our data without our consent, and that no matter how large and powerful they are, nobody is above the law.

The complaint alleges that between the specified dates, Google ignored users' browser settings and placed ad-tracking cookies on millions of devices. While the issue affected Safari on numerous devices, this particular case is concerned only with iPhone users.

Lloyd has led legal action against companies in the past and says:

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.

In all my years speaking up for consumers, I've rarely seen such as massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own.

Google, however, is confident that it will win the case. A spokesperson for the company said:

This is not new. We have defended similar cases before. We don't believe it has any merit and we will contest it.

Despite its confidence, back in 2012 Google agreed to pay $22.5 million in response to a similar case brought against it by the Federal Trade Commission.

Image credit: Moopixel / Shutterstock

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