‘Safari Workaround’ Could Cost Google As Much As $4.3 Billion

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The recent spate of unlawful activities of data collection has put users in a hole. Now, even iPhone users don’t seem too invulnerable on the web despite the near flawless security of the iOS. A campaign group in the U.K called “Google You Owe Us” has filed a class action (also called ‘Representative action’ in the U.K) lawsuit against Google for alleged “clandestine tracking and collation” of personal information from 4.4 million iPhone users in the U.K.

The filing accuses Google of bypassing Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone’s default security settings of its Safari Browser on iPhones to gather users’ personal data. iPhone’s default privacy settings on the Safari browser block third-party tracking via cookies, but the search engine giant allegedly used an algorithm to bypass that setting allowing developers to extract user data. The information collected included race or ethnicity, political affiliations, sexuality, physical and mental health, social class, and location data.

Google might have to pay a whopping $4.29 billion to all affected users, meaning each one of them could receive a compensation of $1000 if Google loses.

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Google has denied the claims and asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that there is no proof of any iPhone user being affected by the “Safari Workaround”.

“The privacy and security of our users are extremely important. This case relates to events that took place over six years ago and that we addressed at the time. We believe it has no merit and should be dismissed,” said Tom Price, Google U.K’s communications director.

Issues related to the “Safari Workaround” first surfaced back in 2012. Google was fined $22.5 million for the practice by US Federal Trade Commission in 2012 and a year later, it was forced to pay $17 million to 37 US states and the District of Columbia.

This is not the first time Silicon Valley giants are facing trouble for misuse of data. In 2011, Apple was sued for tracking U.S iPhone users without consent, after iOS 4 update enabled location tracking in the background. In late last year, Google You Owe Us launched this particular privacy breach case which claimed to have impacted 5.4 Million people.

Richard Lloyd, who is heading the campaign against the Google, accuses all the tech giants for not adhering to the law of land.

“Google and similar tech giants from Silicon Valley are behaving as if they are above the law, says Richard”

Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer representing the group, told that the information collected was used for aggregation and users were put into groups such as “current affairs enthusiasts” or “football lovers” for targeted advertising.

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Advertising forms a core of the search giants revenue, and apparently, it might couldn’t risk losing out on the portion represented by iPhone users. The tech firms are well aware of the fact that data has become a valuable currency and it seems they aren’t missing any opportunity to take leverage from user information.

Google ads have been the key drivers for advertisers and publishers. The Cupertino giant has nevertheless invited Google ads deep into its ecosystem. Last March, Google announced the launch of its Adwords app for Apple iOS.

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