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Google accused of harvesting personal data

5.4 million in UK could be owed hundreds of pounds in compensation

Google accused of harvesting personal data

More than 5 million iPhone users in the UK could be owed hundreds of pounds each in compensation from Google, according to campaign group Google You Owe Us.

The group, led by former Which? executive director Richard Lloyd, is launching a class action lawsuit against Google. It claims that the web giant unlawfully harvested millions of iPhone users’ personal information.

It’s alleged that between June 2011 and February 2012, Google bypassed the default privacy settings on the iPhone’s Safari browser using a piece of computer code that set a Google third-party cookie on to your iPhone – known as the ‘Safari Workaround’. You can find out more about cookies here.

This allowed Google to gather personal data, such as internet browsing history, without seeking user consent. This data was used to sell a service to its advertising network called the DoubleClick Service, which enables advertisers to target and tailor adverts according to an iPhone user’s preferences.

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, said:

‘People have to put their trust in big companies such as Google because they increasingly play a large role in our everyday lives. To have this good faith rewarded by Google taking advantage of people’s information without their consent is something that rightly must be challenged.

‘This ​welcome ​campaign should empower consumers by bringing the issue into the spotlight and enabling those affected to rightly seek collective compensation.’

If successful, the case would result in billions of pounds of compensation for users, and would represent the largest compensation bill ever paid to British consumers.

If you’re thinking of getting the Google Home smart hub, you can find out how it performed in our tough privacy testing by reading our Google Home review.

What can you do?

Google was officially notified of the claim in July 2017, and the case is expected to appear in the High Court next year. The Google You Owe Us campaign group is going to court on behalf of the claimant class, which consists of individuals who can answer yes to the criteria below:

a) Were you at any time between 1 June 2011 and 15 February 2012 present in England and Wales? And while present:

  1. Did you have an Apple ID?
  2. Did you own or were you in lawful possession of an iPhone?
  3. Did you use the Safari browser to access the internet?
  4. Did you keep the default security settings in the Safari browser?
  5. Did you not opt out of tracking and collation via Google’s ‘Ads preference Manager’?

b) Were you resident in England and Wales on 31 May 2017?

You don’t need to do anything at this stage, as you’re automatically included in the claimant class if you meet these criteria. Simply keep an eye on the case – we’ll keep you up to date with any developments.

If the case is successful, you’ll be asked by the campaign group to provide proof that you qualify to receive money under the claim – this could include an Apple ID from 2011 or 2012, or a receipt for an iPhone in the affected period. In order to receive the compensation you’re owed, you will also also need to sign up to the campaign.

If you don’t want to be part of the claim, even if you qualify, then you can choose not to participate via the Google You Owe Us site.

If you give an organisation access to your personal data, you can use your rights under the Data Protection Act to manage how they can use it. Find out how to stop companies from using your data and what steps you can take to protect yourself if your data has been lost.

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