Google is reportedly facing a collective suit in the U.K. worth up to $4.3 billion, stemming from a workaround the company is alleged to have implemented on iOS’s Safari Browser back in 2011. In this new case, a group called “Google You Owe Us” is representing 4.4 million iPhone users in the country who could each be awarded approximately $1,000 if the suit is won. The damages are sought for unauthorized data collection between 2011 and 2012, which is when the workaround was discovered. For those who may not recall, this was a workaround that Google found it could exploit in order to collect data from Apple’s Safari Browser. By default, that’s the only browser which runs on the company’s iOS devices and is deliberately secured against that type of collection. Because of the way the browser is set up, users effectively couldn’t consent to the collection.
As such, this is actually not the first case to be brought against the search giant in the matter – even if it is arguably old news now. In the U.S., a 2013 settlement saw the company pay $17 million across 37 states and a further $22.5 million in fines to the FTC. With regard to this new case, Google is said to have met with Google You Owe Us in court on May 21. Representatives took the opportunity to argue that there aren’t any feasible methods by which to determine whether any given user had been affected. There’s no way to know for sure whether the courts will side with the company. The viability of that argument is dependent on the fact that it may actually be impossible to verify how many of such a large group actually used iPhones at the time or had their data tracked. If it is possible, it will undoubtedly be incredibly difficult to determine an exact figure for proceedings to move forward from, which would likely cause the case to drag out indefinitely.
In the meantime, Google’s U.K. Communications Director Tom Price has made a statement on behalf of the company, espousing the importance Google places on the security and privacy of its users. According to Price, the company believes that it addressed the merits of the case more than 6 years ago when the discovery of its collection was first made. The director went on to call for the case’s dismissal.