Google faces privacy lawsuit from Apple users

Those seeking damages so far include a couple who continued to be bombarded with adverts for prams and other maternity equipment after losing their baby

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The Independent Online

More than 2,000 Apple users have signed up to join a British lawsuit against Google over what they claim was a gross invasion of their privacy by the web search giant.

The case revolves around claims that Google bypassed safeguards in Apple’s Safari web browser which prevent search engines from monitoring people’s web activity unless the user actively clicks on an agreement to let them.

Google is said to have found what has become known as the “Safari workaround” to allow it to bypass Apple’s security. It then installed cookies on the Apple customers’ devices to track their internet use, allowing its clients to target them with related advertising.

The cookies were being placed for a nine-month period in 2011 and 2012 until Google stopped the practice.

The Google Action Group is seeking more members of the public to sign up for the High Court action, hoping that, if their case succeeds, victims could win between £400 and £4,000 each in damages. There is no fee to join the court action.

Those seeking damages so far include a couple who continued to be bombarded with adverts for prams and other maternity equipment after losing their baby; a man whose wife discovered he had been looking at gay contact sites; and another whose girlfriend discovered he was planning to propose after adverts for engagement rings kept popping up on their computer.

The public can join the action without an upfront fee free because the costs were already being met by a £2.5m pot of money being put up by a major US litigation funding firm. Meanwhile the law firm Hausfeld is representing the claimants on a no-win, no-fee basis.

An Action Group spokesman, Jonathan Hawker, said: “The only way to get Google to listen is to hit it where it cares – its pocket. If we can bring together a large group of people from the extensive base of Apple users across London and the rest of the country, that will give them a substantial financial headache.”

Google had argued that the case should not be heard, but the Apple users won a Court of Appeal judgment in March. The Court ruled that the claims raised “serious issues which merit a trial” including “what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature”.

Google declined to comment on the case.

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