UK Safari users have been given the go-ahead to sue Google for continuing to drop cookies on their devices even after they had refused permission through their browser settings.
It was revealed in 2012 that Google bypassed the setting in Safari which instructed sites not to drop cookies, enabling it to deliver personalized ads. The FTC in the US fined the company $22.5M for the practice, with millions more in additional fines levied by 38 US states. There was no government action in the UK, but a group of British iPhone users took Google to court, seeking compensation for breaching their privacy.
Google had attempted to have the case dismissed, claiming that there was no case to answer as the plaintiffs had not suffered any financial harm, but the UK’s Court of Appeal has rejected this argument, allowing the case to proceed …
The BBC reports that the court considered the case to “raise serious issues” which justified 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.
The Google Action Group, a non-profit formed to manage claims in the case, said that millions of Britons would now be eligible to sue for compensation: anyone who had used Safari on a Mac, iPad or iPhone between summer 2011 and spring 2012.
Dan Tench, one of the lawyers acting for the claimants, said that he looked forward to holding Google to account.
Google, a company that makes billions from advertising knowledge, claims that it was unaware that was secretly tracking Apple users for a period of nine months and had argued that no harm was done because the matter was trivial as consumers had not lost out financially. The Court of Appeal saw these arguments for what they are: a breach of consumers’ civil rights and actionable before the English courts.
One of the claimants in the case, Marc Bradshaw, described it as “a David and Goliath victory.”
Update: Those wanting to join the case can do so at googleactiongroup.com. Note that at the time of writing, the site was not yet live.