U.K. Court Reinstates Lawsuit Accusing Google of Bypassing Safari's Privacy Settings to Track iPhone Users

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An appeals court in London has reinstated a lawsuit filed against Google that accuses the company of unlawfully gathering personal information by circumventing the iPhone's default privacy settings, according to Bloomberg.


The collective action, equivalent to a class action lawsuit in the United States, alleged that Google illegally tracked and gathered the personal data of over four million iPhone users in the U.K. between 2011 and 2012. The case was first brought in November 2017 and had been dismissed in October 2018.

"This case, quite properly if the allegations are proved, seeks to call Google to account for its allegedly wholesale and deliberate misuse of personal data without consent, undertaken with a view to a commercial profit," wrote Judge Geoffrey Vos in a ruling today, per the report.

A similar lawsuit was filed in the United States in 2012, when Google was discovered to be circumventing privacy protections in Safari on iOS in order to track users through ads on numerous popular websites.

Specifically, Google took advantage of a Safari loophole that made the browser think that the user was interacting with a given ad, thus allowing a tracking cookie to be installed. With that cookie installed, it became easy for Google to add additional cookies and to track users across the web.

At the time, Safari blocked several types of tracking, but made an exception for websites where a person interacted in some way -- by filling out a form, for example. Google added code to some of its ads that made Safari think that a person was submitting an invisible form to Google, thus creating a temporary cookie.

Google stopped this practice after it was reported by The Wall Street Journal, and refuted many details of the report, while Apple closed the loophole in a Safari update shortly after. Google also paid a then-record $22.5 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission over its practices back in 2012.

"Protecting the privacy and security of our users has always been our No. 1 priority," a Google spokeswoman told Bloomberg. "This case relates to events that took place nearly a decade ago and that we addressed at the time."

Article Link: U.K. Court Reinstates Lawsuit Accusing Google of Bypassing Safari's Privacy Settings to Track iPhone Users
 

eicca

macrumors 6502
Oct 23, 2014
399
244
The amount of times Google has shown me suggestions for things that have come up in conversations with friends, that I've NEVER ONCE typed into any search bar, is astounding.

Just in the last week, Google suggested:
-Rolls Royce Merlin Engines
-Anne Akiko Meyers
-Theremin
-Identifying types of wasps

I've never searched for ANY of these and never seen any recommendations of the sort until I spoke those words aloud.
 

realtuner

macrumors 65816
Mar 8, 2019
1,443
3,766
Canada
$22M is chicken feed to Google. The fine should have been $1B (~10% of profits) to ensure they don't try this kind of circumvention again.
To be fair, these issues weren't in the spotlight back in 2012 as much as they are today. I wonder what Facebook would have been fined if the Cambridge Analytica scandal happened back in 2012. Or what Google would be fined if they did the same thing today.
 

macfacts

macrumors 68040
Oct 7, 2012
3,508
4,134
Cybertron
I love how Google claimed this was an "accident".

As if code gets "accidentally" written to take advantage of an exploit. I also like how Google failed to report this to Apple when they discovered it.
I love how apple doesn't take security seriously.
 
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groove-agent

macrumors 65816
Jan 13, 2006
1,055
781
Google will track anything and anyone it can in order to make a buck. While running a newwork monitor, you should see all the info Chrome is sending out, and all the background "helper" apps it has running.

Big brother is watching. Its name is Google.
 

now i see it

macrumors 601
Jan 2, 2002
4,033
8,025
If you feel cookies are so dang hazardous to your privacy just clear your browsing history after leaving a website. Or use Private mode.
 

Goldfrapp

macrumors 601
Jul 31, 2005
4,890
5,643
Those iPhone renderings and that Safari though! 🙈💩

/memorylane
 
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GeoStructural

macrumors regular
Oct 8, 2016
171
497
Colombia
The amount of times Google has shown me suggestions for things that have come up in conversations with friends, that I've NEVER ONCE typed into any search bar, is astounding.

Just in the last week, Google suggested:
-Rolls Royce Merlin Engines
-Anne Akiko Meyers
-Theremin
-Identifying types of wasps

I've never searched for ANY of these and never seen any recommendations of the sort until I spoke those words aloud.
Yes, this is getting scary. I was talking to my friend about our class ring, and guess what was suggested to me in my feed? Our class ring!!! In a universe of popular items in the market I get something like that.

The other day a friend and I were talking through Instagram about Daniel Radcliffe greeting him outside the theater... Then I open YouTube and I have an effing recommendation of Daniel meeting fans in New York...

Purchases I make, I then get ads for them on Facebook, no connection whatsoever.

I use iPhone and I have my accounts and services disconnected/disassociated, so no one is immune to these abuses.
 

bstpierre

macrumors 6502a
Mar 28, 2008
534
153
The google spokesperson doesn't seem to understand the span of time covered by "always". It definitely includes things that happened nearly a decade ago.
 

gavroche

macrumors 65816
Oct 25, 2007
1,184
999
Left Coast
The amount of times Google has shown me suggestions for things that have come up in conversations with friends, that I've NEVER ONCE typed into any search bar, is astounding.

Just in the last week, Google suggested:
-Rolls Royce Merlin Engines
-Anne Akiko Meyers
-Theremin
-Identifying types of wasps

I've never searched for ANY of these and never seen any recommendations of the sort until I spoke those words aloud.
My sister and her husband are on Android, and experience this a lot. They have tested it by purposely thinking up completely obscure and random things to talk about briefly, and then gone on google and sure enough they show up.
 

eicca

macrumors 6502
Oct 23, 2014
399
244
My sister and her husband are on Android, and experience this a lot. They have tested it by purposely thinking up completely obscure and random things to talk about briefly, and then gone on google and sure enough they show up.
Wanna know the creepiest part? My phone was OFF during all the times Anne Akiko Meyers was mentioned. She was the solo violinist in my concert last week. I always turn my phone off during performances. And Google started sending those recommendations the very next morning.
 

incoherent_1

macrumors member
Oct 19, 2016
78
70
The amount of times Google has shown me suggestions for things that have come up in conversations with friends, that I've NEVER ONCE typed into any search bar, is astounding.

Just in the last week, Google suggested:
-Rolls Royce Merlin Engines
-Anne Akiko Meyers
-Theremin
-Identifying types of wasps

I've never searched for ANY of these and never seen any recommendations of the sort until I spoke those words aloud.
Are you implying they hacked your iPhone microphone settings/security to gather keyword data? Or something else?
 

gavroche

macrumors 65816
Oct 25, 2007
1,184
999
Left Coast
Are you implying they hacked your iPhone microphone settings/security to gather keyword data? Or something else?
Nothing so extreme as hacking is necessary. We routinely give apps permission to access microphones, cameras, contacts, etc. We assume it’s always for normal expected usage. I’ve seen first hand that even when not using apps they can collect data about us, including keywords in conversations. And there are a lot of scary studies published that demonstrate that in depth info about places we go to being compiled, even when all location services are turned off. Apps can be very sneaky about how they piece together info.
 

Porco

macrumors 68040
Mar 28, 2005
3,031
5,641
... from a time when iOS and iPhones were still beautiful (IMHO).

On-topic, good. This was terrible behaviour from Google. I’m pretty sure nothing significant will come of it though.
 

M5RahuL

macrumors 68030
Aug 1, 2009
2,689
979
Colorado
Wanna know the creepiest part? My phone was OFF during all the times Anne Akiko Meyers was mentioned. She was the solo violinist in my concert last week. I always turn my phone off during performances. And Google started sending those recommendations the very next morning.
That's AI for you. There might be people around you with their devices turned on, and Google's AI recognized your *voice* thru their device(s). Might sound unbelievable to some, but I've seen this verified during one of the various AI experiments @ MIT labs 🧐
 
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