Google Loses Safari Web Tracking Court of Appeal Case

U.K. consumers have been granted the right to take Google to court over revelations from 2012 that it bypassed security settings in Apple’s Safari browser to track users.

The case was brought after Google said that it should not face legal action in the U.K. as no financial harm came to consumers, something it says U.K. law requires for a case to be brought under the Data Protection Act.

This argument was dismissed in January 2014 but Google immediately took the case to the Court of Appeal.

However, the courts have once again ruled that Google can be challenged in the U.K. courts, claiming that the seriousness of the allegations “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, as specified in the confidential schedules, about and associated with the claimants’ Internet use, and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months,” the judgement read.

SEW’s sister publication V3 contacted Google for comment on the decision but had not received a response at the time of publication.

One of the claimants, Judith Vidal-Hall, called the decision a “David and Goliath victory” that gave power back to the people against giant corporations.

“The Court of Appeal has ensured that Google cannot use its vast resources to evade English justice,” she said.

“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.” 

Dan Tench, a partner at law firm Olswang, acting for the claimants, said that the decision was vital as it stops Google “evading or trivializing these very serious intrusions into the privacy of British consumers.” 

He added, “Google, a company that makes billions from advertising knowledge, claims that it was unaware that it 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. We look forward to holding Google to account for its actions.”

Google was also criticized in the judgement for submitting excessive trial costs.

“The defendant has put forward an estimate for its trial costs of £1.2 million. These figures seem to us to be extremely high, in particular because some of the technical issues in this claim may already have been addressed by the defendant in other litigation concerning the Safari workaround it has had to deal with in the U.S.,” it said.

The decision means that Google faces the possibility of paying out vast sums to consumers, having already paid fines and settlements totaling around $40 million in the U.S.

Jonathan Hawker, who set up the Google Action Group regarding the Safari tracking issue, said that anyone who used an Apple iPhone, iPod, or iPad between summer 2011 and spring 2012 could be entitled to compensation and should come forward.

“Anyone who used the Safari browser during the relevant period now has the right to join our claim against Google. We urge all Safari users to join us in this battle to hold Google to account for its actions in the only way it understands,” he said.

This article was originally published on V3.

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