AN AGGRIEVED man is threatening to sue internet giant Google for allegedly illegally monitoring his browsing habits on his tablet computer and mobile telephone.
IT consultant Vikas Jain, of Pinner, claims the company covertly installed ‘cookies’, little bits of data designed to help track someone’s interaction with a website, without his permission so that he could be targeted with personalised advertisements.
He said: “I’m always very cautious about my online privacy and security settings, and to know that they managed to get round all of the barriers I put in place is disgraceful.”
Mr Jain was one of the first five Apple customers to contact specialist media and technology law firm Olswang over claims Google circumvented the privacy settings on his iPad computer's and iPhone’s Safari browsers, between September 2011 and February 2012, in order to display tailored banners and offers based on previously visited websites, although these could be seen by others using the same device.
A spokesman for Olswang told the Observer: “Mr Jain has issued a Letter Before Action to Google, the first stage of the claims process.
“You write to the person or company you’re intending to make a claim against, setting out your grievance against them and saying ‘unless you come to the table to answer our questions and pay compensation for the breach of privacy you caused me, we’ll take the case to the High Court.
“Google has 28 days to respond, which ends some time next week.
“The breach of privacy revolves around anybody whose viewing habits on Safari have been monitored and tracked even if you switched on the option saying ‘don’t track me’.”
Mr Jain and the other 19 alleged victims have issued Letters Before Action, accusing the search engine firm of breach of privacy and breach of confidence and asking for damages.
In total, 156 have joined the legal action in Britain.
Last year Google was fined $22.5million (£14.5million) for the exact same Safari privacy breach by the Federal Trade Commission in the United States, although there was no admission of wrongdoing on the part of the company.
It stemmed from research by an academic at Stanford University who discovered Google’s DoubleClick advertising network was using cookies to tailor advertisements.
The Olswang spokesman said: “There hasn’t been a case like this before in Britain. There really isn’t a precedent. The next step depends on what Google says.”
■ See more information on the group claim at www.facebook.com/SafariUsersAgainstGooglesSecretTracking.