data privacy

Google fails in first attempt to block UK privacy case

Warwick Ashford

Google has failed to block attempts by UK users to sue the company for bypassing privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser to track online behaviour.

Google had argued that there was “no jurisdiction” for the case to be heard in the UK because its consumer services are provided by its US division, not Google UK.

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But High Court judge Michael Tugendhat has ruled that the UK is an "appropriate" jurisdiction and the case can proceed.

In 2012, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found Google was exploiting a Safari loophole that enabled it to install monitoring-enabling cookies on web users’ machines.

In August 2012, the FTC fined Google $22.5m for monitoring US Safari browser users, even though they had a "do not track" privacy setting selected.

Google was also forced to pay a separate $17m fine levied by attorneys general in 10 US states over its unauthorised placement of cookies on computers using Apple Safari web browsers from 2011 to 2012.

Lawyers for claimants in the UK have asked Google to reveal how it used the private information it secretly obtained, how much personal data was taken and for how long.

Claimants are suing Google for breaches of confidence and privacy, computer misuse and trespass, and breach of the UK Data Protection Act 1998.

They also claim that the company acted contrary to a 2009 amendment to an EU directive which requires consent before cookies are placed on a user's device for advertising purposes, reports the Telegraph.

Google said it would go the Court of Appeal to see if it could challenge the ruling.

“A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety three months ago in the US. We still don't think that this case meets the standards required in the UK for it to go to trial, and we'll be appealing today's ruling,” the company said in a statement.

If it stands, the ruling could set a precedent for other US internet firms with UK customers.


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