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UK Apple users sue Google over alleged Safari tracking

A group of 12 Apple device users has brought a lawsuit against Google in the U.K., claiming that the search giant violated their privacy by tracking them and secretly logging their browsing habits.

The plaintiffs, according to The Telegraph, say that Google installed tracking cookies on Apple's Safari browser on their computers and mobile devices between summer 2011 and spring 2012. The search giant, they allege, did so after they had explicitly indicated that they did not wish to have their browsing habits tracked.

Google Safari tracking

Google's Safari tracking, explained in this diagram from The Wall Street Journal has come under fire again.


Google, the complaint says, assured users that their habits would not be tracked. The users also state that Safari's default settings should have prevented the tracking.

Early in 2012, reports emerged that Google was circumventing the privacy settings in desktop and iOS Safari browsers to better track their web browsing history. Google "added coding to some of its ads that made Safari think that a person was submitting an invisible form to Google," according to a report at the time. Safari would then allow Google to install a cookie on the user's phone or computer.

Google, responding to the controversy, said it was only using the feature for "signed-in users on Safari who had opted to see personalized ads and other content."

The Federal Trade Commission in August hit Google with the largest fine it had assessed in its history, fining the company $22.5 million for ignoring Safari's security settings. Google agreed to the payment on the condition that it could deny "the substantive allegations in the Commission's civil penalty complaint."