In comments to Reuters this week, Global Co-Head of Data Privacy at Pillsbury Rafi Azim-Khan, highlighted the potential significance of the UK Supreme Court hearing in the Lloyd v. Google case over alleged iPhone tracking.

As Azim-Khan states, “It’s a groundbreaking case that could result in a bank-breaking financial hit."

The case involves a multibillion-pound class action against Google and alleges business practices that secretly tracked the web browsing of millions of smartphone users and then sold such data as targeted advertising services. The case could be a first in the UK for "American style" class actions and assessment of damage and compensation. The claim, brought by a former director of consumer rights group Which?, involves more than 5 million iPhone users with an estimated payout of more than $4 billion if the case succeeds.

“Google makes billions of pounds in revenue from advertising based on our personal data every year,” according to Lloyd, who goes on to state, “It is only right that they should be held to account for profiting from the misuse of that personal data."

Aside from issues such as what damage has been suffered, a key point to be decided is whether UK claims can be brought on an “opt out” basis, which binds all in a defined group initially, or if they can only be “opt in," where every claimant has to sign up.

As Azim-Khan points out, this case is a reminder that businesses need to watch for this type of liability in addition to the risks of being fined for data laws breaches by data protection authorities.