Google Faces UK Lawsuit for Sidestepping Safari Privacy

A group of Apple product users is suing Internet search giant Google in the United Kingdom for violating their online privacy by sidestepping Safari's anti-tracking measures. Google was accused of using code in online ads that ignored Mobile Safari privacy settings, letting the company track user's activities.

Google faces U.K. lawsuit for violating Safari user's privacyGoogle faces U.K. lawsuit for violating Safari user's privacy

The U.K. lawsuit was filed by 12 people, according to Business Insider, over Google cookies used during 2011 and 2012 to track online activity in Mobile Safari. The group claimed that they assumed their privacy was protected through Safari's settings, and that Google violated their trust.

"Google has a responsibility to consumers and should be accountable for the trust placed in them," commented Dan Tench, a partner at the Olswang lawfirm.

Google didn't deny tracking Web surfers when the reports first surfaced, but did defend its actions. The company said in a statement,

We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It's important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.

The "known functionality" Google referred to also happened to bypass Safari's privacy settings. Once the activity was exposed, Google pulled the code from its ads.

Google landed in the middle of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation that ultimately led to a US$22.5 million fine and a settlement without admitting any wrongdoing.

Despite the U.S. settlement and Google's removal of the tracking code from ads, the U.K. group feels there should be more accountability on the Internet search company's part.

"One of the things about this case is the ubiquity of Google. It is ever-present in our lives," Mr. Tench said. "The fact that they are the ones who have acted in this way is a matter of concern."

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]