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A campaigning group is suing Google on behalf of 5.4 million people over allegations that the company harvested personal information from iPhone users. 

“Google You Owe Us”, led by ex-Which? director Richard Lloyd, claims Google illegally collected personal data from 5.4 million individuals in the UK between June 2011 and February 2012.

Using the so-called “Safari Workaround,” Google allegedly placed cookies that tracked iPhones’ internet browsing history, which the company then used to sell ads. 

The group believes those affected are eligible for compensation for violation of trust.

Lloyd told the FT he expected each claimant to receive “several hundred pounds” should the case be successful. 

The lawsuit is a type of collective action called “representative action,” meaning the claim is brought on by one individual on behalf of those affected, who can opt out if they want (the group’s FAQ section includes a link to a form for people who do not wish to be part of the claim).

“Those affected do not have to pay any legal fees, conduct any research or (at this stage) contact any lawyers,” the group said in a statement. “They are already part of the claim and will be updated on the progress of the claim through the website and social media.”

A court date is expected to be set for early spring 2018. It’s the first representative action of this kind in the UK against a major tech company that is centred on the alleged mass misuse of personal data, according to FT

Lloyd said: 

“I believe that what Google did was quite simply against the law. Their actions have affected millions, and we’ll be asking the courts to remedy this major breach of trust. 

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.

In all my years speaking up for consumers, I’ve rarely seen such a massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own. That’s why I’ve taken on one of the biggest fights of my life in representing this legal action, which is the first case of its kind in the UK against a major tech company for misusing our valuable personal data.

I want to spread the word about our claim. Google owes all of those affected fairness, trust and money. By joining together, we can show Google that they can’t get away with taking our data without our consent, and that no matter how large and powerful they are, nobody is above the law.”

Google said in a statement: “This is not new — we have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.”

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