Digital Advertising

Google accused of bolstering DoubleClick ads business with illegally gathered iPhone user data


By John McCarthy | Media editor

November 30, 2017 | 3 min read

Google is poised come under scrutiny in UK courts for allegedly harvesting the personal data of 5.4 million iPhone users, with the lawsuit being led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd.

Google allegedly tracked Safari users

Google allegedly tracked Safari users

The company stands accused of having bypassed privacy safeguards on the iPhone to track web users using Apple’s web browser Safari.

The data was reportedly fed into the company’s DoubleClick ad unit to paint a complete picture of web users for advertiser partners. The lawsuit, filed the the UK High Court, claimed the company breached the UK Data Protection Act by making use of a Safari workaround to gather the data.

Lloyd's lawsuit could see 5.4m iPhone users reimbursed for the intrusion. He branded Google as having perpetrated a “massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own” in conversation with The Times. He currently leads a group called Google You Owe Us.

Google shrugged off the lawsuit in a statement to The Drum: “This is not new - we have defended similar cases before. We don't believe it has any merit and we will contest it."

A spokesperson for the company added that it didn't collect personal information. As a worst case scenario it claimed that some people had simply seen more relevant ads.

The case sets legal precedent in the UK with it being the first mass claim of its kind in the region.

The search giant has been burned on its use of Safari data before. Back in 2012 it paid a civil penalty of £15.1m to the FTC for telling Safari users that it was not placing tracking cookies on their devices – when it was. It's defence was that the tracking was a byproduct of users visiting Google services.

Google You Owe Us said it expects the case to go ahead next year.

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