Google is facing its first class action in UK courts after being accused of collecting the personal data of millions of users, by bypassing privacy settings on their iPhones.
The group behind the legal challenge, dubbed Google You Owe Us, is led by former Which executive director Richard Lloyd who insists the action “will send a strong message to Google and other tech giants in Silicon Valley that we’re not afraid to fight back”.
Law firm Mishcon de Reya, which specialises in large-scale litigation, is providing legal assistance.
The case centres on how Google used ad-tracking cookies on the devices running Apple’s web browsing system Safari, which is set by default to block such cookies. Some 5.4 million UK users are said to have been affected.
Lloyd said: “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. 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.”
Lloyd added that Google had told him that he must “come to California” if he wanted to pursue legal action against the firm. “It is disappointing that they are trying to hide behind procedural and jurisdictional issues rather than being held to account for their actions,” he said.
In a statement, Google said: “This is not new – we have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.”
However, the company failed to mention the 2012 case, when it agreed to pay a record $22.5m (£16.8m) in a case brought by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on the same issue. The firm also settled out of court with a small number of British consumers.
The case will be heard in the High Court in spring next year.
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