As many as 4.4 million iPhone users have sued tech giant Google in the UK for the alleged ‘clandestine tracking and collation’ of personal information. The effort is being led by former director Richard Lloyd over claims that Google bypassed the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari browser on iPhones between August 2011 and February 2012 in order to divide people into categories for advertisers. If things don’t go in its favour, Google may end up paying £3.2bn or around Rs 30,000 crore as per current exchange values.
According to a report by The Guardian, the lawyers for Lloyd’s campaign group Google You Owe Us told the court on Monday that information collected by Google included race, physical and mental heath, political leanings, sexuality, social class, financial, shopping habits and location data.
The lawyer representing Lloyd said that the information was put into groups such as ‘football lovers’ or ‘current affairs enthusiasts’ for the targeting of advertising. He alleged that the data was gathered through clandestine tracking and collation of browsing on the iPhone, known as the ‘Safari Workaround’ – an activity he said was exposed by a PhD researcher in 2012.
The group hopes to win at least £1bn in compensation for an estimated 4.4 million iPhone users.
However, Google has denied these allegations by saying that there is no suggestion that the Safari Workaround resulted in any information being disclosed to third parties. Its lawyer Anthony White QC said that Lloyd’s claim was to pursue a campaign for accountability and retribution against the company instead of seeking compensation for affected individuals.
“The court should not permit a single person to co-opt the data protection rights of millions of individuals for the purpose of advancing a personal ‘campaign’ agenda and should not allow them to place the onus on individuals who do not wish to be associated with that campaign to take positive steps to actively disassociate themselves from it,” he was quoted as saying.