More than four million iPhone users may be due a £750 pay-out from Google, after it lost a landmark case at the Court of Appeal.
The litigation is being brought by campaign group Google You Owe Us, led by former Which? director Mr Lloyd.
The group hopes to win at least £1billion in compensation for an estimated 4.4million users of the device in the UK.
Mr Lloyd alleges that Google cookies – small computer text files – collected data on health, race, ethnicity, sexuality and finance, through Apple’s Safari web browser, even when users had chosen a “Do not track” privacy setting.
The mass legal action against the tech titan over claims it collected sensitive data from millions of iPhone users can now go ahead following the ruling.
Senior judges concluded that Mr Lloyd can bring legal proceedings on the US-based tech giant. The case had previously been blocked by the High Court.
It is the first time a so-called class action – where one person represents others with the same complaint – has been brought in the UK against a big technology company over alleged misuse of data.
But the case was thrown out in October 2018 because at the time, the judge, Mr Justice Warby, said it was difficult to calculate exactly how many people had been affected and claims they had suffered damage were not supported by the group bringing the case.
Now, however, the Court of Appeal has said the case can proceed, ruling that:
- individual personal data has a value
- the definition of damage could apply to loss of control of personal data, which, therefore, could qualify users for compensation.
- representative actions of this type are a suitable legal procedure for seeking mass redress.
Mr Lloyd said after the ruling: “Today’s judgement sends a very clear message to Google and other large tech companies – you are not above the law.
“Google can be held to account in this country for misusing peoples’ personal data, and groups of consumers can together ask the courts for redress when firms profit unlawfully from ‘repeated and widespread’ violations of our data protection rights.
“We will take this fight against Google all the way.”
It was alleged that Google bypassed privacy settings on Apple iPhone handsets between August 2011 and February 2012 and used data to divide people into categories for advertisers.
Judges ruled that the search giant had conducted unlawful and clandestine tracking of iPhone users without their consent using third-party cookies.
Mr Lloyd claims “browser generated information” collected by Google included racial or ethnic origin, physical and mental health, political affiliations or opinions, sexuality and sexual interests and social class.
People’s financial situation, shopping habits and their geographical location were also illegally harvested by the tech giant and the sensitive data was then aggregated and users were put into groups such as “football lovers” or “current affairs enthusiasts”.
Google said: “The case relates to events that took place nearly a decade ago and that we addressed at the time.”
“We believe it has no merit and should be dismissed.”
In 2012, Google agreed to pay $22.5m (£18.3m) in damages over the same issue in the US.
It said at the time that no personal information had been collected and the action had been “inadvertent“.
Are you eligible for a refund?
Below are the criteria for a refund and those eligible will automatically enrolled into the case.
1. Were you in England and Wales at any time between June 1, 2011 and February 15, 2012?
2. Did you have an Apple ID?
3. Did you own or have lawful possession of an iPhone?
4. Did you use the Safari browser to access the internet?
5. Did you keep the default browser settings?
6. Did you not opt-out of tracking and collation via Google’s ‘Ads preference manager’?
7. Were you resident in England and Wales on May 31, 2017?
It is possible to opt out of the case if you want and if compensation is awarded at a later stage, people will have to prove they were iPhone users between June 1, 2011 and February 15, 2012.