Google Tracking Of Safari Users, Heads To UK Supreme Court

Google is to face more legal challenges it never wanted in a British courtroom over its data collection practices over a decade ago.

The case centres over whether Google allegedly misused Safari’s security settings in order to track user activity of 4.4 million iPhone users between September 2011 and February 2012.

Safari is designed to block tracking by default, but Google a decade ago apparently bypassed this feature (the so called ‘Safari Workaround’) to place cookies that gathered information on users and their habits so the search giant could deliver more targeted adverts.

Route to Supreme Court

That move was not without repercussions around the world.

For example in 2013 Google had to pay a $17 million (£12.2m) settlement to 37 US states to resolve the allegations the company violated consumer privacy by using tracking cookies.

Also in 2013 three UK Safari users launched legal proceedings, inviting anyone who had used the browser on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod during the period in question to join them.

Google then sought to move the court case to the United States, but the UK Appeal court ruled in 2015 that the lawsuit could be filed in the UK.

After that in 2017 Google was hit another lawsuit over the matter, but in October 2018 London’s High Court ruled that Google’s alleged role in the collection, collation and use of data from the browser was wrongful and a breach of duty, but claimants had not suffered “damage” as specified by Britain’s Data Protection Act.

But in October 2019 the Court of Appeals in London overturned that ruling.

Supreme court case

Richard Lloyd, the former director of consumer group Which? and the representative claimant in the mass action, was quoted as saying at the time that the Appeals court ruling “sends a very clear message to Google and other large tech companies: you are not above the law.”

And now Lloyd can bring the case against Google at the Supreme Court in London.

However the BBC noted that this two day hearing will not be about the actual claim itself, but whether the complainant Richard Lloyd can bring it on behalf of those affected.

If the case is allowed to go ahead, many others are likely to follow.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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