Google slapped with class action lawsuit for harvesting personal data of 5.4m Brits

Google is facing a class action lawsuit from as many as 5.4 million Brits for bypassing the privacy settings in Apple's Safari browser to harvest iPhone users' personal data between 2011 and 2012.

A group called '‘Google You Owe Us’ is leading the fight against Google and is demanding compensation for 5.4m Brits who owned iPhones between 2011 and 2012.

Even though Google has brushed off the allegation by stating that it has no merit, the group is determined to make the global internet giant pay for bypassing privacy settings in devices and violating the UK's data protection laws to illegally collect personal data of citizens.

'I believe that what Google did was simply against the law. Their actions have affected millions, and we’ll be asking the courts to remedy this major breach of trust. 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 if our laws are broken,' said Richard Lloyd, former executive director at consumer group Which?.

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If their legal action is successful, Google could be forced to pay compensation to as many as 5.4 million people who owned iPhones between June 2011 and February 2012.

Earlier this year, Google found itself in rough waters after the Information Commissioner's Office revealed that Google DeepMind, an artificial intelligence platform created to enable machines to learn things for themselves, processed nearly 1.6 million 'partial patient records containing sensitive identifiable personal information' as part of clinical safety testing and to confirm if the technology was safe to deploy during live operations.

The ICO found the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust guilty of sharing sensitive data of 1.6 million patients with Google DeepMind without adequately informing patients that their data would be used by DeepMind to conduct clinical safety tests.

This year, Google was also fined a record £2.14 billion by the EU for abusing its dominance in search engine results by illegally promoting its own shopping service and thereby restricting people's right to choose and killing off rival firms.

Richard Lloyd, who is now leading the fight against Google in the UK, told The Guardian that he wants to spread the word about Google's malpractices and send a message that people are not scared to fight back if their privacy is violated by rich Silicon Valley giants.

'In all my years speaking up for consumers, I’ve rarely seen such as massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own. This is … the first case of its kind in the UK against a major tech company for misusing our valuable personal data.

'I want to spread the world about our claim. Google owes all of those affected fairness, trust and money. By joining together, we can show Google that they can’t get away with taking our data without our consent, and that no matter how large and powerful they are, nobody is above the law,' he added.

Lee Munson, Security Researcher at Comparitech.com, told TEISS that considering how Google has been fined previously for monitoring browsing histories,it is not that surprising to learn about its alleged historic collection of data from iPhone users.

'While the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will do little to change the illegality of collecting personal information through such underhand means, it will up the ante in terms of the financial penalties that could be handed to any company that engages in any such activity.

'Hopefully, therefore, this will be the last time we hear of any alleged surreptitious data collection from unknowing victims who may have believed they had taken the necessary steps to prevent it occurring,' he added.