Consumers take on Google for Safari snooping

4249731778_c071fcb365_oIn a landmark legal action, a group of Apple customers in the UK are suing Google for deliberately snooping on them, after Google despite setting their iPhone security to say they did not want to be tracked.

You can find out more and join the legal action here

The much publicised Safari tracking episode resulted in a $22.5m fine from the FTC in America, however no penalty has been handed out by the UK’s Information Commissioner.  When consumers see their private data being harvested on an industrial scale, with little reaction from the regulators, it is little wonder that they react by taking legal proceedings into their own hands.

The action initially involved twelve claimaints, but the law firm involved hopes to create a wider group of people who were using Apple’s Safari browser for the three months concerned. The legal bill couldrun to tens of millions of pounds because of the estimated 10 million Britons that own an iPhone andmay have been tacked against their wishes.

Jonathan Mayer, the Stanford University graduate student who uncovered Google’s Safari tracking, last year told the San Francisco Chronicle that: “Google’s claim here is ‘oops.’ I can believe it’s an ‘oops.’ But we hold people very responsible for negligence and gross negligence all the time. They were playing with fire here. They circumvented a browser feature and did not check for collateral damage.”

We have previously raised concerns about Google’s track record for ‘accidents’ that turn out to be far more deliberate than first suggested, and how regulators need to address the seeming lack of any deterrent for companies to fail to respect user privacy.

The action is being launched by the legal firm Olswang and is sure to add to the mounting controversy surrounding Google and the way that it handles the masses of our personal data that it has accumulated.  Dan Tench from Olswang has said that: “It is particularly concerning how Google circumvented security settings to snoop on its users. One of the things about Google is that it is so ubiquitous in our lives and if that’s its approach then its quite concerning.”

This case could set a hugely important legal precedent and help consumers defend their privacy against profit-led decisions to ignore people’s rights. Google tracked people when they had explicitly said they did not want to be tracked, so it’s no surprise to see consumers who believe their privacy had been steamrollered by corporate greed seeking redress through the courts.