British iPhone Users Could End Up Claiming Some Money From Google

By Tom Pritchard on at

Google is in a spot of bother at the moment, because it bypassed iOS's security settings to collect data on around 5.4 million British iPhone users for several months in 2011 and 2012. The issue is being taken to court, and if successful could see Apple-loving Brits get some sweet, sweet compensation.

The issue at hand is the fact that Google bypassed iOS security settings to install cookies with the consent of the user - something that is usually blocked by Apple's Safari browser. The issue was brought up in the US with the Federal Trade Commission back in 2012, with Google agreeing to pay a record settlement of $22.5 million after a class action lawsuit. It has also settled with a number of individual users here in the UK.

These sorts of lawsuits aren't common here in the UK. In fact the lawsuit from advocacy group Google You Owe Us, led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd, is being referred to as the first of its kind in the UK.

Whether the action will be successful isn't clear at the moment, but the fact Google ended up paying out in the US means it's not a completely pointless endeavour. While the issue has affected multiple devices over the world, this case is specifically focussing on iPhone users here in the UK.

Richard Lloyd said:

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

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."

He also added that Google told him he would have to travel to California if he wanted to pursue legal action, adding, ""It is disappointing that they are trying to hide behind procedural and jurisdictional issues rather than being held to account for their actions."

Meanwhile a Google spokesperson told the BBC:

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

The case is being supported by law firm Mishcon de Reya, which specialises in large-scale litigation cases like this, but anyone affected won't have to pay any legal fees or deal with lawyers. They will automatically be part of the case unless they choose to deliberately opt out.

Lloyd estimates that users should be eligible for "several hundred pounds each", with various news outlets quoting figures between £200 and £500. Obviously that will rely on the lawsuit being successful, and will depend on how much Google is forced to pay up if it loses.

The case is set to be heard in the High Court, and it's guess that it will take place next Spring. [BBC News]

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