This Monday Mr Justice Warby made the decision to block a campaign group’s case against Google, which aimed to win as much as £3bn in compensation for its illicit surveillance of iPhone users who had used the ‘Do Not Track’ setting in their privacy settings.
Google You Owe Us, led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd, was set up as a ‘representative action’ against Google. This would have allowed one legal team to represent all those affected without the need for each individual to take action. The group’s website says: “We want to show that the world’s biggest companies are not above the law”.
Google You Owe Us had hoped to collect at least £1bn in compensation for affected users, claiming that Google had used their personal data for targeted advertising purposes.
The group’s lawyers previously told the court that Google collected user data including racial or ethnic origin, physical and mental health, political affiliation or opinions, sexuality and sexual interests, social class, financial situation, shopping habits, and geographic location.
Lloyd expressed his frustration at the High Court’s decision, saying: “Today’s judgment is extremely disappointing and effectively leaves millions of people without any practical way to seek redress and compensation when their personal data has been misused.”
He went on to say: “Closing this route to redress puts consumers in the UK at risk and sends a signal to the world’s largest tech companies that they can continue to get away with treating our information irresponsibly.”
Lloyd believes that legislative change is now needed to “give groups of consumers the right to affordable collective redress”.
Mr Justice Warby concluded that Google’s actions didn’t cause damage to users and said: “the main beneficiaries of any award at the end of this litigation would be the funders and the lawyers, by a considerable margin”. He also added: “it is arguable 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”.
Google previously paid a fine of $33.5m to the US Federal Trade Commission in 2012 for “misrepresent[ing] to Safari browser users how to avoid targeted advertising by Google”.
The tech powerhouse responded to the UK High Court’s decision by saying: “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.”