Google is facing a class-action lawsuit in the UK that claims the search giant illegally snooped on 5.4 million iPhone users between 2011 and 2012.

The company collected users' data by bypassing the default privacy settings on the iPhone's Safari browser, according to Richard Lloyd, a UK consumer advocate who is filing the legal action. The data, taken without users' consent, was then used to create targeted ads over Google's advertising services—in violation of UK data protection laws, Lloyd says.

"By joining together, we can show Google that they can't get away with taking our data without our consent," Lloyd said in a Thursday statement. He's established a group called "Google You Owe Us" to spread awareness about the claim.

In the US, Google paid $22.5 million in 2012 to settle a complaint about the same issue. The Safari tracking didn't violate US law, it did break terms of a privacy deal Google had made with the Federal Trade Commission, prompting the fine.


In the UK, the issue also went to court, but the case only involved three individuals. That lawsuit was eventually settled on confidential terms, but the UK court did find there was legal standing for someone to sue Google over the privacy breach. As The Verge notes, the move is noteworthy since class-action suits are not as common in the UK as they are in the US.

Affected iPhone users in the UK can expect to earn "several hundred pounds each" if the lawsuit wins in court, according to Lloyd, who is a former executive director for Which?, the UK consumer watchdog group.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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