10 million Britons could have grounds to sue Google over Safari snooping

Google is set to face a legal onslaught in the UK amid accusations it is bypassing privacy settings on Apple devices to monitor user behaviour.

The search giant is believed to have installed cookies on the Safari web browser used by iPhones and iPads, enabling it to covertly track online usage. Campaigners have responded by forming a group named Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking, with London-based law firm Olswang taking up their landmark privacy case.

Olswang lawyer Dan Tench says 10 British users have already begun proceedings with dozens more ready to follow suit. The user base of Apple devices is so vast an estimated 10 million Britons could have grounds to launch privacy claims against Google.

"This is the first time Google has been threatened with a group claim over privacy in the UK," Tench said. "It is particularly concerning how Google circumvented security settings to snoop on its users. One of the things about Google is that it is so ubiquitous in our lives and if that's its approach then it's quite concerning."

Just months ago Google was ordered to pay a $22.5 million fine in the US after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found it had illegally put ad tracking cookies in Safari.

The FTC accused Google of deceiving millions of Safari users by stating on its website that their online activities couldn't be tracked when, in fact, the Internet giant intentionally inserted code to bypass privacy settings and collect data for advertising purposes.