High Court of England and Wales blocks iPhone Safari privacy suit against Google

'Google You Owe Us' hopes to appeal in cookie-muncher case

The High Court has blocked an attempt by British consumer rights advocates to fling a multibillion-pound class-action sueball at Google over iPhone handset tracking allegations. The full judgment (PDF) was handed down in London today.


Google coughs up $17m to end Safari STALKER COOKIE brouhaha


The case was launched by Richard Lloyd, previously an exec director of Which?, on 31 May last year. He was acting as a representative of a group of claimants* who used the Safari browser on iPhones in the UK between 1 June 2011 and 15 February 2012 – alleging they had been affected by the so-called "Safari Workaround".

Lloyd and his group "Google You Owe Us" claimed the ad-tracking cookies amounted to a breach of the UK's Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998 and were looking for damages estimated to be between £1bn and £3bn, depending on whose sums you use.

Judge Mr Justice Warby noted that Google's "alleged role in the collection, collation, and use of data obtained via the Safari Workaround was wrongful, and a breach of duty", but nevertheless said the court had to concern itself with "whether the claimants could claim compensation under the DPA" and whether the Court should "permit the claim to continue as a representative action"*.

On those points, he refused Lloyd permission to serve "proceedings on Google outside the jurisdiction" in Mountain View, California, adding that "the claimants, with Lloyd as their representative, had not "suffered 'damage'" as it is defined by within the meaning of section 13 of the Data Protection Act**.

Google, which was represented by Anthony White QC alongside law firm Pinsent Masons, told us: "The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. This claim is without merit, and we're pleased the Court has dismissed it."

For its part, Google You Owe Us said it would seek permission to appeal against the ruling.

It added: "Mr Justice Warby also suggested that none of those affected in the data breach had shown 'any interest in the case'." It contended that "20,000 people had signed up to the Google You Owe Us website – with 10,000 in the first week alone". ®


* This is tricky business in the UK as, under English law, unless every person in the "representative class" has exactly the "same interest" (Civil Procedure Rules section 19.[1]), they cannot have their claim considered as a group.

** This provides that "individuals can claim compensation for data breaches that cause both distress and damage".

*** The ruling goes into minute detail around damages under the DPA which you can read on pages 14 to 20 here (PDF).

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022