UK consumers can sue Google for breach of privacy

Google has lost a Court of Appeal battle to stop UK consumers from suing it in the UK for breach of privacy.

A group called Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking accuse Google of bypassing security settings on Apple’s browser to track their online browsing and to target them with personalised advertisements.

The ruling means millions of people who use Apple devices could now take the firm to court for bypassing security in the Safari browser to secretly collect data.

Google, who tracked browsing histories to serve targeted ads, had tried to claim action could not be taken in the UK because its services were provided from the US.

On Friday three appeal judges dismissed Google’s appeal over a High Court ruling against it, and ruled claims for damages can be brought over allegations of misuse of private information.

The ruling is a victory for the group of Safari users who have complained about the “clandestine” tracking of their internet use between summer 2011 and early 2012.

The group says Google collected private information without their knowledge using cookies – the text saved on computers and other devices to identify a user to Google.

Dan Tench, a partner at law firm Olswang, which represents the group, said the case decides “whether British consumers actually have any right to hold Google to account in this country”.

The appeal judges unanimously ruled that misuse of private information was a civil wrong, enabling legal action to go ahead.

The judgement said:

On the face of it, 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… about and associated with the claimants’ internet use, and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months.

“The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused.

Jonathan Hawker, of the Google Action Group, said:

“Anyone who used the Safari browser during the relevant period now has the right to join our claim.”

Google has already agreed to payouts of more than £26million in the US.

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