Google is being taken to court in UK, this time being accused of collecting personal data of millions of users.
Google is been in news for all the wrong reasons recently. First, it’s flagship Pixel 2 XL was reported to have been affected by display issues, then came the news which revealed that Google was collecting location information from Android smartphones even if the user keeps the services switched off.
Now there seems to fresh trouble for the search giant as Google is being taken to court in the UK, this time being accused of collecting personal data of millions of users. This mass legal action is first of its kind in the history of UK.
Primary allegations point at Google unlawfully harvesting information from 5.4 million UK users by bypassing privacy settings on their iPhones. The group taking action - Google You Owe Us - is led by ex-Which director Richard Lloyd.
The case centers on how Google used cookies - small pieces of computer text that are used to collect information from devices in order to deliver targeted ads. The complaint is that for several months in 2011 and 2012 Google placed ad-tracking cookies on the devices of Safari users which is set by default to block such cookies.
The Safari workaround, as it became known, affected a variety of devices but the UK case will focus on iPhone users only.
Mr. 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." He added: "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."
Mr. Lloyd claims 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. Its estimated by Mr. Lloyd that affected users could be paid "a couple of hundred pounds each".
Google told the BBC: "This is not new - we have defended similar cases before. We don't believe it has any merit and we will contest it."
Those affected do not have to shell out any legal fees or contact any lawyers as they will automatically be part of the claim unless they specifically wish to opt out. The case is being supported by law firm Mishcon de Reya, which specialises in large-scale litigation.
In 2012, Google 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, likely in spring 2018.
with inputs from BBC.