Google Seeks To Throw Out UK Safari Tracking Lawsuit

Google has been accused of “arrogant, immoral” behaviour in a privacy case involving the alleged tracking of iPhone users – which the search giant is seeking to have thrown out of the UK court.

Google will instead argue that the case should be heard in its home territory of California – if it is heard at all – according to plaintiffs.

Disgrace’

“Google’s preference that British consumers should travel all the way to California to seek redress for its wrongdoings is arrogant, immoral and a disgrace,” said one claimant, Judith Vidal-Hall, in a statement provided to the press.

Law firm Olswang is bringing a test case against Google, and hundreds of others are preparing to sue if the case goes ahead.

The claimants accuse Google of circumventing the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari web browser on the iPhone, iPad and desktop systems, in order to secretly monitor their browsing for the purpose of selling personalised advertisements.

At a jurisdiction hearing at the British high court on Monday morning, however, Google said it will argue that the case does not meet the legal requirements necessary for it to be heard in England, noting that a similar case was recently thrown out in the US and that no European regulators are currently investigating the matter.

“We’re asking the court to re-examine whether this case meets the standards required in the UK for a case like this to go to trial,” a Google spokesman told TechWeekEurope UK.

Local laws

Olswang argued that Google is obliged to respect the laws protecting its users in the areas where they live.

“British users have a right to privacy protected by English and European laws,” stated Olswang solicitor Dan Tench. “Google may weave complex legal arguments about why the case should not be heard here, but it has a legal and moral duty to users on this side of the Atlantic not to abuse their wishes. Google must be held to account here, even though it would prefer to ignore England.”

“Google is very much here in the UK… It is ludicrous for it to claim that, despite all of this very commercial activity, it won’t answer to our courts,” stated Vidal-Hall.

In November Google paid a $17 million (£10.5m) settlement to 37 US states over the issue. In July 2012, Google reached a record $22.5 million (£14m) settlement with the FTC to resolve federal charges related to the same matter.

Ad tracking

The case emerged in 2012 when reports began emerging that Google had altered its DoubleClick advertising platform to circumvent default privacy settlings in Safari. Those default Safari privacy settings would have prevented cookies from collecting information on the searching habits of Safari users.

By quietly changing those settings, Google was able to capture information about Safari users and their searches, which attracted the ire of many users and attorneys general in many states across the US.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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