Apple users can sue Google over Safari privacy breach

Google has failed in its bid to prevent consumers from suing the company in the UK over alleged privacy abuse.

Three claimants filed suit against the US-based company, claiming that Google had bypassed security settings on the Safari browser.

This workaround allowed Google to install tracking cookies on the users’ computers to improve advertising targeting.

This is achieved because cookies can gather significant data on user habits without the knowledge of the users.

Google requested that the UK’s Court of Appeal block the claimants from suing, but this appeal has now been declined.

The company claimed that there should not be a trial because the consumers targeted by the cookies did not suffer financial harm.

The Court of Appeal, in its judgement, said: “These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial,” as reported by the BBC.

“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.”

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

One of the claimants, Judith Vidal-Hall, said: “The Court of Appeal has ensured Google cannot use its vast resources to evade English justice.”

“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.”

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The claimants can now proceed with the lawsuit, and potentially allows millions more users to also file against Google.

To qualify, a user would have to have used the Safari browser – available across iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Mac computers – during the period from summer 2011 to spring 2012.

Dan Tench, a partner at Olswang, the law firm representing the claimants, said: “Google, a company that makes billions from advertising knowledge, claims that it was unaware that it was secretly tracking Apple users for a period of nine months and has argued that no harm was done because the matter was trivial as consumers had not lost out financially.”

“The Court of Appeal saw these arguments for what they are: a braech of consumers’ civil rights and actionable before the English courts.

He added: “We look forward to holding Google to account for its actions.”

Google has already been forced to pay fines totalling upwards of $40 million in the United States as a result of the incident.

The USA’s Federal Trade Commission levied the charges separately across 38 states.

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