Google stands to lose up to $4.3 billion in UK privacy suit

The suit represents 4.4 million iPhone users, who reportedly could get a payout of about $1,000 each.

James Martin/CNET

Google appeared in a UK court Monday to argue against a privacy case that could lead to the search giant paying up $4.3 billion if it loses. 

The group Google You Owe Us, representing 4.4 million iPhone users in the UK, filed a lawsuit in July alleging the tech company violated their privacy from 2011 to 2012 through the "Safari Workaround."

While Apple's iOS devices have default privacy settings on its Safari browser, Google was able to bypass it and collect browser data without people's consent, according to the allegations. The workaround was first discovered in 2012 by a Stanford University researcher. Google agreed to pay $17 million to 37 states and Washington, DC, in a 2013 settlement. The company also agreed to pay a $22.5 million fine from the Federal Trade Commission over the data-tracking practice.

Google and the privacy group met in court on Monday for the first time, with court documents revealing that the millions of affected iPhone users in the UK could receive about $1,000 each, according to Bloomberg.

The company argued in court Monday that the case should be dismissed, saying there was no way to verify if a person was affected by the Safari Workaround, The Guardian reported.

"The privacy and security of our users are extremely important to us," Tom Price, Google UK's communications director, said in a statement. "This case relates to events that took place over six years ago and that we addressed at the time. We believe it has no merit and should be dismissed."

First published on May 21, 9:28 a.m. PT.
Update at 11:07 a.m.PT: Adds statement from Google.