The class action against Google based on its collection of sensitive personal data from more than 4m iPhone users has been allowed to go ahead following a Court of Appeal ruling.

Three judges overturned an earlier High Court ruling (click here for article) that the action, brought by Richard Lloyd, a former director of Which? magazine on behalf of 4.4m consumers, failed for want of evidence of actual damage.

The claim alleges that Google bypassed privacy settings on iPhone handsets between August 2011 and February 2012 and placed cookies to track user preferences and feed them back to Google so that targeted advertisements could be sent to those users. Information gathered included people's financial situations, shopping habits and geographical location as well as their ethnicity, health, social class and sexuality.

The group is seeking compensation totalling around £1bn. 

Giving the court's ruling, Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Vos said: "The claimants that Lloyd seeks to represent will all have had their browser generated information (BGI) something of value taken by Google without their consent in the same circumstances during the same period.

"The represented class were all victims of the same alleged wrong, and had all sustained the same loss, namely loss of control over their BGI."

Mr Lloyd said after the ruling: "Today's judgment sends a very clear message to Google and other large tech companies: you are not above the law.

"Google can be held to account in this country for misusing peoples' personal data, and groups of consumers can together ask the courts for redress when firms profit unlawfully from 'repeated and widespread' violations of our data protection rights."

Google said it would seek permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court. A spokesperson said: "This case relates to events that took place nearly a decade ago and that we addressed at the time. We believe it has no merit and should be dismissed."