A judgment by the Supreme Court on Wednesday could see every iPhone owner in England and Wales compensated by up to £750, after Google was sued for covertly collecting web-browsing data from users between 2011 and 2012.

UPDATE: The UK Supreme Court has granted Google’s appeal against a planned £3.2 billion British class action over allegations that the tech giant illicitly collected data from iPhone users, despite assurances to the contrary.

The Supreme Court will imminently share its verdict on one of the most significant class-action cases in modern legal history: Lloyd v Google LLC. Consumer-rights advocate Richard Lloyd is suing the tech giant for collecting web-browsing data from iPhone users between 2011 and 2012. In its defence, Google claims it was unable to harvest the data because of default privacy settings on Apple’s default web browser, Safari.  

A decade ago, Google was deemed to have placed advertising-tracking cookies on Safari web browsers, despite assuring users they would be automatically opted out of data-harvesting. At the time, it claimed it had not intended for its tech to bypass the default security settings on the Safari browser, describing the infringement as accidental. That information, it was alleged, allowed Google to deduce users’ age, gender, interests, habits, political views and financial position and thereby categorise and target advertising to them accordingly.

Lloyd, the former executive director of consumer-choice publication Which? Magazine, launched the legal suit in 2017 on behalf of the four million iPhone users in England and Wales he alleges were affected. He maintains that if he wins, the tech giant could be forced to pay out billions in compensation, with each iPhone user eligible for up to £750 ($1,014). 

 As Google is a US-based company, Lloyd applied to serve the claim in the UK. After an initial refusal from the High Court, the Court of Appeal said that, while the claim was “unusual” for being an “opt-out” US-style class action, rather than an opt-in UK-style action on behalf of a group of named individuals, it was acceptable, given it was claimed all the alleged victims of the purported wrongdoing had suffered the same loss.

Legal experts contend that, should Lloyd win, the verdict could represent a landmark. Speaking in 2019, Mishcon de Reya, the lawyers representing the claimant, described the appeals court’s move as “ground-breaking”, as it “confirms a number of important legal principles under data protection law.”  

Jamie Curle, a partner at law firm DLA Piper, told Sky News the verdict was “one of the most eagerly awaited decisions of recent years.”

Google is no stranger to large fines. In September, it announced plans to challenge a €500 ($591) million fine imposed on it by the French competition authority. The internet giant was accused of not having respected copyright rules. 

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