Google is Being Sued in the High Court for "Clandestine" Tracking of iOS Users

By Tom Pritchard on at

On of Google's mottos is "Don't Be Evil". Or at least it was, until they changed it to the slightly more subjective "Do the Right Thing". Some would argue that the company's past behaviour does border on being evil, which is why the company is being sued in the High Court in a class-action lawsuit described as "the first of its kind" in the UK. The reason? Allegedly bypassing security restrictions in iOS's Safari browser for "clandestine tracking".

If this story sounds familiar, it's because it originally broke nearly six months ago. What's changed now is that the class action suit has now arrived in the High Court, with plaintiffs seeking £3.2 billion over claims Google illicitly installed cookies on iPhones that collected information from over 4.4 million UK-based users between August 2011 and February 2012. The lawsuit is coming from a collective calling itself 'Google You Owe Us', led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd, and if successful will net each affected user £750 in damages. At the very least the collective would like Google to have to pay out at least £1 million.

According to Google You Owe Us, this information was collected and separated users into different groups - with the intention of using it for targeted advertising. The cookie installation itself was only possibly using what was referred to as "The Safari Workaround" which the company supposedly used to get around Apple's block on third-party trackers. According to Lloyd, this practice was exposed back in 2012 and Google has already had to pay out £39.5 million to settles claims in the US, alongside a £22.5 million FTC fine, and a total of £17 million in fines to 37 US states.

Google has denied that users could be identified from the data that was collected, and that none of the information was passed onto third parties. For that reason it wants the case to be dismissed, and has filed evidence to support that claim to the court. [The Guardian via Trusted Reviews]