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High Court Rules Google Safari Privacy Case Must Be Heard In UK

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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Google fails to get its case moved to California

The UK High Court has ruled that legal action brought by more than 100 people against search giant Google must be heard in this country, over-ruling Google’s bid to move it to the US.

The group, which calls itself Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking, is accusing Google of invading their privacy by over-riding security settings on Apple’s Safari browser in order to track their online activity and use this information to target them with personalised advertisements, despite their opting out of such tracking.

googleevilStaying in the UK

The group claims that Google ‘hacked’ their devices to install advertising cookies, which allowed users to see messages indicating if people from their “Circles” on their Google+ accounts had clicked on ads. However, despite saying that users’ data would be protected, these cookies allowed Google and other advertisers using the company’s DoubleClick ad service to see which websites people accessed.

Google tried to move the case to its home state of California, but Justice Tugendhat of the High Court in London said that the UK courts had “appropriate jurisdiction” to conduct the case, saying that it would be “very burdensome” and “costly” to move the case to the US. Back in December, the company was accused of “arrogant, immoral” behaviour in trying to get the case moved, with the claimants arguing that Google should be obliged to respect the laws protecting its users in the nations in which they live.

Google said it will appeal, with a spokesperson saying, ““A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety three months ago in the US. We still don’t think that this case meets the standards required in the UK for it to go to trial, and we’ll be appealing today’s ruling.”

The issue was discovered, late in 2011 by Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford University researcher. However, Google only admitted in February 2012 that it had been tracking Safari users without their permission. By January 2013, more than 70 Britons had grouped together and contacted lawyers to discuss the possibility of legal action.

Google has already paid $17m to 37 US states regarding the breach, as well as an additional $22.5m (£14.4m) fine to the US Federal Trade Commission.

Google said in a statement: “A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety three months ago in the US. We still don’t think that this case meets the standards required in the UK for it to go to trial, and we’ll be appealing today’s ruling.”

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