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Google faces legal action in the UK over Safari cookies

Internet users are seeking damages, disclosure and an apology from Google

A group of Internet users in the U.K. are seeking damages, disclosure and an apology from Google for its alleged undermining of the security settings on Apple's Safari browser to track online usage covertly.

Members of the group, described as informal, have instructed a technology and media law firm, Olswang, to begin action against Google, the group said.

The claims center around tracking cookies, which were allegedly installed in secret by Google on computers and mobile devices of users of the Safari browser, Olswang said in a statement on Sunday. The legal firm has been retained by the group to coordinate claims.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said in August last year that Google agreed to pay US$22.5 million civil penalty to settle charges that it misrepresented to users of Safari that it would not place tracking cookies or serve targeted ads to those users, violating an earlier privacy settlement between the company and the FTC.

FTC charged that Google placed advertising tracking cookies on consumers' computers, in many cases by circumventing Safari's default cookie-blocking setting. A court accepted the consent decree. Google however denied wrongdoing.

The group has also set up a Facebook page, called "Safari Users Against Google's Secret Tracking", to provide information for anyone who used the Safari internet browser between September 2011 and February 2012, and "who was illegally tracked by Google."

Any users in the U.K. may have a claim against Google for this breach of their privacy, according to the group. Other users, who have set up this group, are taking action against Google to hold them to account, it added.

This has the potential of being the biggest ever group action filed in the U.K., with millions of potential claimants, privacy advocate Alexander Hanff said in a Twitter message.

Google did not immediately comment.

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