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Google loses bid to prevent Apple Safari users suing it over privacy breaches

By Seb Joseph | News editor

March 28, 2015 | 3 min read

Google has lost its attempt to prevent UK users of Apple’s Safari browser from suing it over tracking cookies and privacy violations.

The landmark ruling paves the way or Apple users to sue the search giant, which had tried to convince the Court of Appeal to block privacy lawsuits from three complainants. The challengers accused Google of breaching security settings on the Safari browser between summer 2011 and spring 2012 that included tracking their cookies to improve advertising targeting.

Google’s defence was that the tracking did not cause any financial harm and so a trial was not needed. However, the judge dismissed the argument, which cited the 1998 Data Protection Act, as a limited interpretation of the law and ruled that it undermined the objective of protecting a person’s data and privacy.

According to the BBC, the Court of Appeal said in its judgement: “These claims raise serious issues which 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…about and associated with the claimants internet use, and the subsequent use of that information of about nine months.”

It continued: “The case relates to the anxiety and distress and intrusion upon autonomy has caused.”

Law firm Oiswang, which represented the three complainants, said the ruling opens the door to potentially millions of Britons who have used Safari during the nine-month period.

Emma Cross, associate at Oiswang, wrote on a blog post: “This judgment provides welcome clarification on two related, but distinct, areas of law. It will be interesting to monitor how it is used in the field of privacy law going forward and whether claimants with a claim that falls under the tort of misuse of private information will also end up bringing it under the DPA, given that the hurdle of pecuniary loss has been lifted.”

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