£3 billion Safari iPhone privacy lawsuit given go-ahead

A UK class action against Google can go ahead, according to the UK Court of Appeal. The suit claims up to £3bn ($3.9bn) in damages based on Google's manipulation of Apple's Safari browser in 2011-12.

In 2010, Apple included anti-tracking technology in Safari that would stop advertising companies from inserting cookies into the browser.

Google developed a workaround, enabling it to put cookies from its DoubleClick advertising technology into users' browsers anyway. Safari's anti-tracking technology at the time made an exception for sites that users interacted with, so Google included code in advertisements that made it look as though the user was filling out a form.

This technique enabled the company to place cookies in Safari. Those small files could tell when the user visited a site participating in the DoubleClick advertising program, how long they spent on the site, what pages they visited, and in some cases even their rough geographic location.

The complaint calls this data ‘browser generated information' or BGI, and says that over time it allowed Google to draw more conclusions about people, helping it to understand things like their sexual orientation, religious views, and political leanings. The company used this data to segment people into customer groups, which it used to target them with advertisements from its customers. So in other words, Google bypassed Apple's technology protections to carry on its advertising operations as usual.

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