A British organization representing 5.4 million people in England and Wales brought a massive lawsuit against the American tech-giant Google on November 30 in the United Kingdom, accusing the California-based company of illegally harvesting data from its customers' iPhones to then use for individually targeted advertising.
Led by Richard Lloyd, the former CEO of the consumer organization 'Which?,' the campaign group 'Google You Owe Us' alleges that the browsing histories of millions of iPhone users were collected using trackable data packets popularly known as 'cookies' installed on the internet platform 'Safari,' which bypassed the program's default privacy settings. The period relevant to the court case runs from June 2011 to February 2012.
"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," Lloyd was quoted by The Times as saying.
The case is to be heard in early 2018. If the suit is successful, Google may be liable to pay every individual victim of its alleged snooping US$672 (£500) totaling an estimated US$3.6 billion (£2.7 billion).
According to 'Google You Owe Us' website, individuals who were the subject to illegal gathering of their data are automatically considered to be claimants in the suit even without their knowledge.
In a statement to Sputnik, a Google spokesperson said, "This is not new — we have defended similar cases before. We don't believe it has any merit and we will contest it."
The American web-giant has recently been at the center of multiple controversies, including the issuing of a US$2.7 billion fine by the EU for favoring its own search results over those of its competitors, as well as the loss of a Supreme Court Case in Canada over whether states can apply their own laws all over the internet.
More recently on Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google's parent company Alphabet Inc. said the company was looking at de-ranking Russian media outlets such as RT and Sputnik, essentially hiding their output from its search results.