UK Safari Users Can Sue Google Over ‘Unjust’ Tracking

The Court of Appeal has ruled UK users of Safari will be able to sue Google after it allegedly misused the browser’s security settings in order to track user activity between September 2011 and February 2012.

Safari is designed to block tracking but default, but Google apparently bypassed this feature to place cookies that gathered information on users and their habits so the search giant could deliver more targeted adverts.

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

Safari action

Google has already forked out millions in fines in the US over the incident but claimed UK users were not entitled to compensation because they had not suffered financially. However the court dismissed this argument, paving the way for potentially millions of Safari users to take legal action.

“These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial,” said the court. “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.”

One of the three claimants has welcomed the judgement, describing it as a “David and Goliath victory.”

“The Court of Appeal has ensured Google cannot use its vast resources to evade English justice,” claimed Marc Bradshaw. “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.”

Google said it was “disappointed” with the ruling and told TechWeekEurope “[We are] considering our options.” It has already forked out a $17 million (£10.5m) settlement to 37 US states over the issue and in July 2012, it reached a record $22.5 million (£14m) settlement with the FTC to resolve federal charges related to the same matter.

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Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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