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Google may be forced to pay out compensation to more than 5 million Brits if a class action lawsuit in the UK is successful. A group, labeling itself “Google You Owe Us,” is taking Google to court, claiming it unlawfully collected personal information by bypassing privacy settings on Apple’s iPhone Safari browser. Google, Facebook, and several other online advertising networks were caught in 2012 using a workaround to bypass restrictions, allowing the companies to deposit cookies on an iPhone even if the device was set to block them.

While Google claimed at the time its practice was limited to the company’s failed Google+ initiative, the UK lawsuit alleges that Google used the workaround to track “internet browsing history, which Google then used to sell a targeted advertising service.” Google’s revenues rely on selling targeted ads, and obtaining as much personal information on its users to sell services and recommend products.

A big law firm and a consumer expert are taking on Google
Richard Lloyd, former director of consumer body Which? In the UK, is taking Google to court alongside law firm Mischon de Reya. “I believe that what Google did was simply against the law. Their actions have affected millions, and we’ll be asking the courts to remedy this major breach of trust,” explains Lloyd in an interview with The Guardian. “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.”

The case is rather unique in the UK against a giant tech company. While there have been numerous class action lawsuits in the US against big tech companies, the practice isn’t as widespread in the UK. Google was forced to pay a $22.5 million fine for the same Safari privacy breach back in 2012. At the time it was one of the highest fines the Federal Trade Commission had administered. Britain’s High Court will hear the case some time next year, and if the action is successful then iPhone users from 2011-2012 will be able to claim part of the damages. Google says it will defend the case. “This is not new,” says a Google spokesperson. “We have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.”

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