Tech giant Google is being sued by a group of UK-based privacy advocates calling themselves Google You Owe Us over the alleged misuse of personal data of iPhone users.
The group alleges that Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. bypassed the default privacy settings on iPhones and collected user data unlawfully. The group is bringing the case on behalf of 5.4 million iPhone users, and if the data collection is proven to have taken place, each user stands to receive several hundred pounds in damages.
It is claimed that Google used a particular algorithm to force the Safari browser to release personal data from iPhones in 2011 and 2012.
According to Bloomberg, Google said that there is no merit to the lawsuit and they plan to contest it in court.
However, it seems that the group has a bigger aim than just getting compensation. Richard Lloyd, a consumer advocate who is leading the case, said:
I believe that what Google did was 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.
For its part, Google seems unperturbed, pointing out that they have faced similar lawsuits before.
Perhaps they have underestimated the goals of Lloyd and the group, though. In discussing the case, Lloyd added:
I want to spread the world 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.
And perhaps they aren’t; Google has recently fallen foul of data protection laws in Europe. The Spanish data protection commission fined the company €300,000 for unlawfully processing user data gathered through Street View, the European Commission gave them €2.4 billion antitrust penalty for skewing results, and in France they were penalised €150,000 for tracking users via cookies.
Could more lawsuits be on the way?