Google is sued for privacy breaches over iPhone ‘breach’

Google is being sued on behalf of millions of Britons over privacy breaches after secretly accessing their iPhone browsing history

Google is being sued on behalf of millions of Britons over privacy breaches after it secretly accessed their browsing patterns on iPhones.

The company has already been fined more than $40 million in the US over the scandal which involved tens of millions of people around the world.

Now, the former director of consumer group Which?, Richard Lloyd, is seeking compensation for up to 5.4m Britons whose privacy was invaded.

Google effectively bypassed the default privacy settings on Apple’s Safari web browser to access the browsing patterns of people who owned an iPhone or iPad between the summer of 2011 and spring of 2012.

It appears to have used this data to cash in by sending targeted advertising to people using their Apple device to access websites through the Google search engine.

In 2015, Britain’s Court of Appeal ruled that consumers have the right to sue Google in this country over alleged breach of privacy settings through what was known as the ‘Safari Workaround’.

The US tech giant subsequently settled a legal action brought by a small group of UK consumers before it went to trial.

Now, Mr Lloyd is bringing a so-called ‘representative action’ for compensation on behalf of the estimated 5.4million people in England and Wales who were spied on by Google.

The legal case is similar to a class action in America, however compensation will be limited to a figure that relates to the harm caused and – unlike in the US – there is no scope for additional punitive damages.

Mr Lloyd said: ‘I believe that what Google did was quite simply against the law. Their actions have affected millions, and we’ll be asking the courts to remedy this major breach of trust.

‘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 if our laws are broken.

In 2015 the Court of Appeal  ruled consumers had a right to sue Google for the breach 

In 2015 the Court of Appeal  ruled consumers had a right to sue Google for the breach 

‘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.

‘That’s why I’ve taken on one of the biggest fights of my life in representing this legal action, which is the first case of its kind in the UK against a major tech company for misusing our valuable personal data.

‘I want to spread the word about our claim. Google owes all of those affected fairness, trust and money.

‘By joining together, we can show Google that they can’t get away with taking our data without our consent, and that no matter how large and powerful they are, nobody is above the law.’

The legal case has been launched today under the label ‘Google you owe us.’

People who owned an iPhone or iPad at the time will be automatically included in the claim unless they ask to leave the campaign through the website.

The people who were targeted by Google do not have to pay any legal fees, conduct any research or – at this stage – contact any lawyers.

Mr Lloyd has instructed the law firm Mishcon de Reya to take the case and the costs are being funded by a firm called Therium, which will take a fee.

A spokesman for the legal case said: ‘As with any representative action, third party funding levels the playing field for consumers against larger, well-funded defendants, such as Google.

‘In this action against Google, Mr Lloyd has engaged Therium Litigation Funding IC to fund all of the costs of the claim – including Mishcon de Reya’s fees – and has arranged After The Event Insurance.

‘Should the case be successful, Therium will take a fee but the great majority of the damages awarded by the court will be distributed to the claimant class.’

An initial court hearing in the case is likely to held next spring, however it could be two to three years before it is settled.

Google has always argued that no compensation is due because the Apple device users suffered no financial harm.