Google may be forced to pay all iPhone UK users up to £750 in compensation for secret tracking by the Supreme Court

Richard Lloyd is suing Google for collecting online surfing data from iPhone users between 2011 and 2012, despite Google saying at the time that the Safari browser’s default privacy settings barred it from doing so.

He filed the lawsuit not as an individual who was harmed by Google’s activities, but as a representation of nearly four million individuals in a first-of-its-kind class action.

If Mr Lloyd succeeds, Apple might be required to pay billions to compensate impacted iPhone customers, who could be entitled to a tariff of up to £750 per iPhone, according to Mr Lloyd’s letter of claim, but a considerably smaller sum is most likely.

The case’s main significance, however, will be its impact on case law.

A ruling against Google might pave the way for class actions in future data protection issues in the United Kingdom, allowing consumer advocates to sue firms that violate privacy laws.

The decision will be handed out in London on the same day that the business obtains a decision in its appeal against a then-record €2.4 billion (£2.2 billion) punishment issued by the European Commission for favouring its own online shopping service over competitors.

Google was detected surreptitiously installing an advertising tracking cookie on Safari web browsers – whether used on iPhone, Mac, or iPad – almost a decade ago, despite guaranteeing users that this monitoring would be disabled by default.

Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford University graduate student at the time, identified the workaround. Google stated at the time that the data gathering was unintentional and that the functionality did not intend to overcome the Safari browser’s default security settings.

In August 2012, the firm reached a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission for the breach, paying a then-record civil penalty of $22.5 million.

In addition, the firm paid $17 million to dozens of states in the United States after acknowledging that it had acquired this data for advertising reasons while promising consumers that it wouldn’t, albeit it did so in a settlement that did not accept any blame.

Because Google is situated in the United States, Richard Lloyd initially notified Google of the claim in 2017 and applied to the courts for authorization to serve the claim outside of the jurisdiction.

Google has filed an appeal with the UK Supreme Court, which will have to assess what damages are due to the impacted iPhone users, if those users all suffered the same loss, and whether representative proceedings are the correct approach to address these concerns.