Google Wins Appeal Against Lawsuit Alleging Tracking of Safari Users without Consent

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 10 Nov 2021

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Today, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled on a lawsuit that accused Google of tracking users without their consent in the iPhone’s Safari browser. The court has restored the search giant’s appeal against this suit, thus blocking a class-action case that sought £3.2 billion (approximately $4.3 billion) as compensation from Google for millions of users affected by its tracking practices.

This landmark lawsuit was led by the consumer rights activist and former director of the Which? Magazine, Richard Lloyd. It claimed that between 2011 and 2012, Google covertly collected data belonging to over 5 million iPhone users by circumventing Safari’s default security settings that prevent tracking of internet browsing history. The suit further alleged that Google used this ill-gotten data for commercial purposes. London’s High Court initially shot down Lloyd’s attempts to sue Google, but the Court of Appeals decided otherwise. Subsequently, Google appealed for a stay on the lawsuit in the Supreme Court. Now, its appeal has been upheld.

The judge remarked that the compensation claim for millions of users is “officious” and that the lawsuit is acting on behalf of individuals who haven’t authorized such legal action. He noted that he should exercise his discretion (conferred by CPR rule 19.6(2)) by refusing to continue the claim as a representative action. Further. he characterized the claim as “officious litigation, embarked upon on behalf of individuals who have not authorized it.” He added that the beneficiaries of the damages awarded would be the sponsors and lawyers.

Lloyd sought to extend the class-action claim to include compensation for Google’s alleged misuse of data collected despite lacking any financial loss to the people affected. Speaking about Google’s appeal being upheld, Lloyd said, “We are bitterly disappointed that the Supreme Court has failed to do enough to protect the public from Google and other Big Tech firms who break the law.” Lloyd’s lawyer voiced a similar sentiment and called it a “dark day when corporate greed is valued over our right to privacy.”

Meanwhile, Google lauded the decision and said it had focused on infrastructure and products than upheld people’s privacy. The claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and have since been addressed, it said. The Confederation of British Industry also appreciated the decision. It said that allowing the litigation to continue would have frozen investment and impacted firms across the economy.

Lloyd’s case against Google for the same issue filed in the US was settled in August 2012. In stark contrast to the proceedings in the UK, the US FTC found Google guilty of using an advertising tracking cookie within its DoubleClick advertising network on Safari. At the time, Google reportedly told Safari users that the browser’s default settings would block the cookie. The FTC directed the search giant to pay a $22.5 million fine.

With the British Supreme Court siding with Google and the FTC ruling against it, do you think Google was wrong or not? We would love to read your opinions in the comments below!

[Via Reuters]