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UK high court blocks mass privacy action against Google


It was claimed Google bypassed privacy settings on iPhones and used data to cateogrise people for advertisers.

The high court has blocked a mass legal action against Google over claims that it collected sensitive personal data from more than 4 million iPhone users.

Mr Justice Warby, sitting in London, announced his decision on Monday.

The litigation was brought by the campaign group Google You Owe Us, led by the former Which? director Richard Lloyd.

The tech company faced claims that it bypassed privacy settings on Apple iPhone handsets between August 2011 and February 2012 and used data to divide people into categories for advertisers.

The campaign group hoped to win at least £1bn in compensation for an estimated 4.4 million users of the device in the UK.

At the first hearing of the case in London in May, lawyers for Lloyd told the court that information collected by Google included racial or ethnic origin, physical and mental health, political affiliations or opinions, sexuality and sexual interests and social class.

They said information about an individual’s financial situation, shopping habits and their geographical location were also obtained.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Lloyd, said information was then aggregated and users put into groups such as “football lovers” or “current affairs enthusiasts”. These were then offered to subscribing advertisers to choose from when deciding to whom to direct their marketing.

Tomlinson said the data was gathered through “clandestine tracking and collation” of information relating to internet usage on iPhone users’ Safari browser – known as the “Safari workaround”.

He told Mr Justice Warby the activity was exposed by a PhD researcher in 2012 and Google had paid $39.5m to settle claims in the US.

Google argued that the type of “representative action” being brought against it by Lloyd was unsuitable and should not go ahead.

Lawyers for the California-based company said there was no suggestion that the Safari workaround resulted in any information being disclosed to third parties.

They also said it was not possible to identify those who may have been affected and the claim had no prospect of success.



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