It’s another day, and another tech giant is accused of illegally tracking 🕵️ its users. This time the culprit is Google. The tech giant is fighting a £3 billion class-action lawsuit in the UK Supreme Court that accuses it of secretly tracking millions of 📱 iPhone users.
For years now, Google has been accused of spying on users and harvesting their browsing data. The tech giant has been sued multiple times in the U.S. for privacy violations. According to experts, this new case is pretty significant. If it succeeds, then there may be a flood of similar data class actions against other tech companies that operate within the UK.
More Than Four Million iPhone Users Affected
The case against Google, which was filed on behalf of over four million Apple iPhone users, hinges on what damages can be recovered by UK consumers for data tracking.
During the first day of the landmark hearing, the company’s attorneys tried to have the lawsuit thrown out 🚮 by claiming that the case is not viable and it should not be allowed to proceed. A Google attorney argued that unlike in America, the victims in the UK case could only seek compensation under English laws if there was a data breach that led them to suffer damage. Google is basically saying its activities didn’t cause any damage, so the lawsuit is 🤷 bogus.
Richard Lloyd, former director of consumer rights group Which?, is leading the claim that seeks to extend the UK’s fledgling class-action system to hold Google accountable for profiting 🤑 off its users’ personal data.
“Google makes billions of pounds in revenue from advertising based on our personal data every year,” Lloyds said in a statement. “It is only right that they should be held to account for profiting from the misuse of that personal data.”
If the trial succeeds, Lloyd estimates that people who used iPhones between 2011 and 2012 could be owed redress of more than $4.2 billion 💰 or about £750 per user.
⚠️ Lawsuit after Lawsuit ⚠️
Google is no stranger to privacy lawsuits. The company faces another multibillion-dollar lawsuit in the UK over claims that YouTube routinely breaks privacy laws by tracking children online.
The lawsuit accuses YouTube of using illegal techniques to target minors. Its methods reportedly constitute “major breaches” of UK and European privacy laws made to protect citizens’ private data. YouTube has “systematically broken these laws” by collecting kids’ data without obtaining permission 📜 from their parents, it alleges. The suit represents 5 million British kids 👶 and their parents. If successful, there could be as much as 2.5 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) in compensation, worth between £100 to £500 per child.
In March, another class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. accusing Google of secretly collecting data from users even when they’re using “Incognito” mode on Google Chrome. The $5 billion lawsuit argues that Google is in violation of U.S. wiretapping and privacy laws that protect citizens against tracking, intercepting, and collecting communications. It comes after privacy-centric search engine 🦆 DuckDuckGo published a study in 2018 that claimed searches in Google Chrome’s incognito mode were not actually private.
Like in the UK case, Google tried to have the lawsuit thrown out, but a federal judge denied the request, stating that the company failed to notify its users that it engaged in data collection while in private browsing mode.
Tech Companies Come Under Scrutiny 🔎 Over Privacy Concerns
Privacy watchdogs all over the world have been turning their attention to tech companies in an attempt to protect children’s data. For example, TikTok was recently sued for collecting children’s data in the UK. The claim, filed by a former children’s commissioner for England, alleges that TikTok illegally collects the personal information of its underage users without their knowledge.
Facebook was also recently sued by Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) on behalf of EU users who were affected by a 2018 data breach that leaked the private information of 530 million Facebook users in 106 countries. That lawsuit was filed soon after a U.S. federal judge approved a $650 million 💵 settlement of a privacy violation against Facebook that accused it of collecting user biometric data without consent.
Experts believe Google’s UK case could set the scene for similar data protection claims in the UK against Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and other online services that are known to harvest and use troves of personal data for commercial gain. Tech companies must take it as a warning and avoid gathering the personal data of unsuspecting users without their consent for profits.
If you are the victim of a data breach or have concerns a tech company has violated your privacy rights, consider contacting a social media attorney to learn about your options.