If you used an iPhone in the UK between 1 June 2011 and 15 February 2012, you’re one of an estimated 5.4 million people who might one day be in line for a compensation payment from Google over a long-running controversy known as the “Safari Workaround”.
The legal fundamentals are that a campaign group called Google You Owe Us has launched a “representative action” (similar to a class action in the US) alleging that the search giant gained access to data by bypassing default privacy settings on the iPhone Safari browser which existed to protect the data, allowing it to collect browsing data without users consent.
This happened despite the assurances given by Google that this would not happen to users running Safari with its default privacy settings. This case will involve Safari since it was a browser that by default imposed restrictions on the cookies set by ad networks.
This comes after the discoveries made by a Stanford University researcher called Jonathan Mayer in 2010, which eventually led to legal cases by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 38 US states in 2012 and 2013 which concluded with Google paying fines of $22.5m (then £15m) and $17m respectively.
In response to the case, Google issued a defense on the grounds that the feature was connected to allow Safari users who’d signed into Google, and opted to see personalized content, to interact with features such as the company’s Google+ button or Facebook likes.
Back in 2012, Google said: “To enable these features, we created a temporary communication link between Safari browsers and Google’s servers, so that we could ascertain whether Safari users were also signed into Google, and had opted for this type of personalisation.”
This shows that internet services, and people’s interaction with them, is getting so complex that strict lines of privacy and consent were blurring.