Google is facing a fresh privacy battle in the UK over its alleged secret tracking of the internet habits of millions of iPhone users.
An estimated 10 million Britons could have grounds to launch a privacy claim over the way Google circumvented Apple’s security settings on the iPhone, iPad and desktop versions of its Safari web browser to monitor their behaviour.
At least 10 British iPhone users have started legal proceedings and dozens more are being lined up, according to Dan Tench, the lawyer behind the action at the London-based firm Olswang.
“This is the first time Google has been threatened with a group claim over privacy in the UK,” he said. “It is particularly concerning how Google circumvented security settings to snoop on its users. One of the things about Google is that it is so ubiquitous in our lives and if that’s its approach then it’s quite concerning.”
A letter before action has been sent to Google executives in the US and UK on behalf of two users, including Judith Vidal-Hall, the privacy campaigner and former editor of Index on Censorship. Another 10 are preparing to launch proceedings, and plans are afoot for a group to form an umbrella privacy action.
The legal action comes just months after Google was hit with a $22.5m (£14m) fine in the US over a privacy breach between summer 2011 and spring 2012.
Google has admitted it intentionally sidestepped security settings on Apple’s Safari web browser that blocked websites from tracking users through cookies – data stored on users’ computers that show which sites they have visited. Security researchers revealed last February that Google’s DoubleClick advertising network intentionally stored these cookies on users’ computers without their consent.
Although the legal bill for Google is likely to be small compared with last year’s profits of $10.7bn, the damage will be significant given the millions of iPhone users in Britain at the time. The exact figure for compensation is not known and will depend on a number of factors.
Credit to :TheGuardian