Yesterday, the Court of Appeal gave the green light to a claim against Google alleging the firm had unlawfully gathered personal information of Apple iPhone users between August 2011 and February 2012. This overturned a previous court decision regarding the case.
The Mountain View firm was claimed to have bypassed Apple’s default privacy settings for iPhones during the period, providing it access to user data.
More specifically, it’s alleged Google used different pieces of information to split people into different categories for advertisers. It’s claimed such information ranged from political leanings to sexuality and racial or ethnic origin that helped advertisers decide who to direct their marketing to.
According to Bloomberg, the case itself is worth more than £3.2 billion. It’s possible more than four million iPhone users could receive up to £750 in compensation if Google loses.
The action against Google is being led by a group aptly titled “Google You Owe Us”, led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd.
Google You Owe Us is hoping to secure at least £1billion in compensation for an estimated 4.4 million individuals that owned an iPhone during the period.
Mr Lloyd initially filed claims against Google back in 2018, but they were refused. However, a further challenge from the former director prompted three judges at the Court of Appeal to let it go ahead.
Concluding the court’s ruling yesterday, Chancellor of the High Court Sir Geoffrey Vos said: “The claimants that Mr Lloyd seeks to represent will all have had their browser generated information (BGI) – something of value – taken by Google without their consent in the same circumstances during the same period.
“The represented class were all victims of the same alleged wrong, and had all sustained the same loss, namely loss of control over their BGI.”
Mr Lloyd said the decision “sends a very clear message to Google” that it’s not “above the law”.
He explained: “Today’s judgment sends a very clear message to Google and other large tech companies – you are not above the law.
“Google can be held to account in this country for misusing peoples’ personal data, and groups of consumers can together ask the courts for redress when firms profit unlawfully from ‘repeated and widespread’ violations of our data protection rights.
“We will take this fight against Google all the way.”
It has been reported Google has already paid $39.5 million to settle similar claims in the United States.
The Mountain View firm has confirmed that it’s seeking permission to appeal the latest court decision.
A Google spokesperson said: “Protecting the privacy and security of our users has always been our number one priority. This case relates to events that took place nearly a decade ago and that we addressed at the time.
“We believe it has no merit and should be dismissed.”
Google You Owe Us has provided an outline for individuals that can be used to assess if they are eligible for compensation, depending on the outcome of the case.
You qualify if you answer yes to each of these questions:
1 – Were you at any time between 1 June 2011 and 15 February 2012 present in England and Wales and whilst present:
2 – Did you have an Apple ID?
3 – Did you own or were you in lawful possession of an iPhone?
4 – Did you use the Safari browser to access the internet?
5 – Did you keep the default security settings in the Safari browser?
6 – Did you not opt-out of tracking and collation via Google’s “Ads preference Manager”?
7 – Were you resident in England and Wales on 31 May 2017?
The group states if it is successful, individuals will have to register with it to receive any money owed.