In a move destined to send shockwaves through the U.S. tech industry, the UK Court of Appeal has ruled against Google and decided that users of Apple’s Safari browser can sue Google in the UK courts. Google had tried to argue that anyone wishing to bring a case against them would have to do so in Seattle, something likely to be cost prohibitive.
According to IT Pro Portal, the case stems from Google’s use of tracking cookies in Apple’s Safari browser. Google claimed that cookies would be disabled according to the end-users security and privacy settings, and users could “opt out.” This was not the case, and information on users surfing habits and internet activity was streamed back to Google during 2011 and 2012.
Google argued that while they collected the information, users of the Safari browser had not suffered any financial loss, and, therefore, they could not be sued for damages. The court disagreed with Google and found for the plaintiffs, saying that they can take action against Google for a breach of their privacy.
“These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial. They concern what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature. The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused.”
The Inquirer reports that Google have already been sued in the U.S. over similar issues. New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman found in 2013 that Google had circumvented the Safari web browser’s privacy features to track users’ internet activity. Google was fined $17m.
According to the BBC, Google has already been sued in 38 separate states over the same issue and has so far paid out over $40 million in fines and costs.
Judith Vidal-Hall, one of three claimants in the UK, was delighted with the outcome of the case, saying that she was pleased that Google could not evade its liability to UK internet users.
She said, “The Court of Appeal has ensured Google cannot use its vast resources to evade English justice, Ordinary computer users like me will now have the right to hold this giant to account before the courts for its unacceptable, immoral and unjust actions.”
Computer Weekly reported “There is now a precedent and all of the internet giants face the same fact, they are liable before the courts of the UK, for their actions in the UK, irrespective of their corporate base or origin.”