Privacy of 5 Million iPhone users is being affected by Google

The group, called Google You Owe Us, said in a declaration Thursday that it was the first case of its sort in the U.K. against a major tech business over the alleged misuse of private data. It says the Alphabet Inc. unit wrongly collected people’s personal data by bypassing the iPhone’s default privacy settings.

Richard Lloyd, a customer advocate who is leading the case, said he needed to “send a strong message to Google and other tech giants in Silicon Valley that we’re not scared to fight back if our laws are broken.” The crowd said each of the 5.4 million consumers could get “several hundred pounds” if the case, filed in London Wednesday, is encouraging.

Privacy has been a hot topic for the producers of the world’s most popular devices, from Apple to Samsung Electronics Co. to Google. In 2015, Apple allowed iPhone and iPad users to start installing content blockers software that can prevent ads on websites, for example on their machines as a way of giving people more control over how their information is gathered and used.

Mountain View, California-based Google said the action isn’t new.

“We don’t consider it has any merit and we will contest it,” the corporation said in a statement.

The group says Google used an algorithm to trick iPhones into publishing personal data from the Safari browser in 2011 and 2012.

Lloyd said Thursday that Google’s activities were “quite simply against the law.”

“Their actions have changed millions, and we’ll be asking the courts to solve this major breach of trust,” he said. The group says all affected consumers are now part of the claim but can opt out if they want.

Groups are admitted to bringing lawsuits representing millions of people, even if those bodies haven’t asked to be represented, says Paul Baker, a partner at the law firm, Simmons & Simmons. But to succeed in the square they have to show that those consumers share the same interests, he says, which can make group legal requests like this one more difficult.