Google could face UK legal action for secret iPhone tracking

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Google could face UK legal action for secret iPhone tracking

Warwick Ashford

Ten million UK iPhone users could have grounds to sue Google for circumventing Apple security settings to monitor web browsing habits

At least 10 UK iPhone users have started legal proceedings and dozens more are being lined up, according to the Guardian.

The Guardian quotes Dan Tench, the lawyer behind the action at the London-based firm Olswang as saying this is the first time Google has been threatened with a group claim over privacy in the UK.

The legal action is based on claims that Google circumvented Apple security settings on iPhones, iPads and desktop versions of the Safari browser that block websites from tracking users through cookies.

Lawyers have sent letters about the planned legal action to Google executives in the US and UK on behalf of two users. Another 10 are preparing to launch proceedings, possibly as a group action.

Last August, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Google $22.5m for monitoring Safari browser users even though they had a "do not track" privacy setting selected.

The FTC launched an investigation after a Stanford University researcher reported that Google was bypassing browser privacy settings.

Google was found to be exploiting a Safari browser loophole that enabled it to install monitoring-enabling cookies on websurfers machines through adverts on websites.

This allowed the search giant to track browsing habits without permission, but Google claimed no personal information had been collected.

Lawyers for iPhone claimants in the UK have asked Google to reveal how it used the private information it secretly obtained, how much personal data was taken, and for how long.

Claimants are suing Google for breaches of confidence and privacy, computer misuse and trespass, and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Alexander Hanff, a privacy campaigner working on the legal claims, told the Guardian that the lawsuit was about sending a message to corporations that circumventing privacy controls would result in significant consequences.

The lawsuit could cost Google tens of millions in damages, making it potentially the biggest group action ever launched in the UK.


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