Google is facing class action in the UK for allegedly harvesting the personal data of more than five million people in Britain.
The claims come courtesy of a group calling itself ‘Google You Owe Us’ headed up by Richard Lloyd, the former executive director of consumer firm Which?, aided by law firm Mischon de Reja.
The group claims that between June 2011 and February 2012, Google collected personal information on iPhones by bypassing the privacy settings on the smartphone’s Safari browser.
Google had apparently used its technical prowess to get hold of personal data stored in the iPhone’s native browser, which uses Google’s search engine by default, through planting tracker cookies that could hoover up data and feed it back into Google advertising system.
Such dodgy action, described by the lawsuit as “violation of trust” could have affected up to 5.4 million iPhone users during the time period. And if the class action is successful, all of those user likely need to be compensated.
“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,” said Lloyd.
“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.”
That’s some fighting talk from Lloyd, but Google appears to be rather nonplussed by the class action.
“This is not new – we have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it,” a Google spokesperson told us.
Many of us share personal information on a daily basis with Facebook updates and Twitter rants, but we do so knowingly. Google’s alleged clandestine data harvesting may seem a little harmless in that it simply fuels personalised adverts but it could represent a pretty big violation of user privacy and a complete lack of transparency on data collection and use, if Google indeed did carry out such actions.
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