Brits who were using an iPhone back between June 2011 and February 2012 could be in for a mini windfall, with a campaign group seeking to take Google to task over the way it was able to circumvent the iPhone’s privacy settings that should have prevented it from tracking users.
Having launched a “representative action,” the UK’s version of a class action lawsuit, campaign group You Owe Us says that iPhone owners affected by the breach need not do anything right now, but various news outlets believe that if courts decide in their favor, they could be in line to receive anywhere between £200 and £500 (approx. $670 USD) each.
The issue all stems from the way Apple configured Safari to block cookies from advertisers by default. That was all fine and dandy until Google and advertising companies Media Innovation Group, Vibrant Media, and Gannett PointRoll found a way to fool Safari into thinking that a form was being submitted, allowing the installation of tracking cookies without consent.
Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer discovered that although mobile Safari’s default setting blocks cookies from third parties and advertisers, Google and advertising companies Media Innovation Group, Vibrant Media, and Gannett PointRoll fooled mobile Safari into thinking “a person was submitting an invisible form to Google,” letting them in turn install a tracking cookie on users’ iPhones and PCs without consent.
The problem was first discovered in 2012 and the Federal Trade Commission fined Google $22.5 million over the practice at the time, so this is certainly not a new discovery. The action in the UK certainly is, though, and Google could find itself in hot water. For its part, Google believes the case is without merit but with a court set to decide whether that is the case or not, we could see money changing hands eventually. Whether the sums will be anywhere near the £200 – £500 suggested by the likes of The Telegraph, though, remains to be seen.