UK Court Denies Google’s Appeal On Privacy Lawsuits

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The Financial Times reports on Friday, March 27th that Google was denied in its efforts to block users from suing in the UK courts, after a group was given permission to sue the search giant over allegations it secretly tracked their internet browsing.

The UK Court of Appeal upheld an earlier High Court ruling giving three UK users the right to sue the firm in Britain instead of California where Google is based.

After the ruling on Friday, a Google spokesperson noted: “We’re disappointed with the court’s decision and are considering our options.”

More details on the UK court decision

The users suing Google in the UK  include a self-employed editor, Judith Vidal-Hall, and two directors of IT companies.

The plaintiffs claim Google recorded information such as websites they visited, and tracked their internet surfing habits, interests, hobbies, shopping habits as well as personal matters such as political and religious beliefs. Moreover, they clain they “had a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of the information tracked and collated by the defendant”.

They allege that Google overrode security settings on Apple’s Safari browser to allow the installation of “cookies” on their computers, meaning the firm could target them with advertising based on the data it has gathered.

This case is a good example of the increasing worry about online privacy and the protection of personal privacy in the Internet era. The plaintiffs argue that Google tracked information on their internet use in 2011 and 2012 without their knowledge or permission.

A trial for the lawsuit is expected sometime in the next few months.

Excerpts from the UK court ruling against Google

In dismissing Google’s appeal, the two UK Court of Appeal judges said it appears “these claims raise serious issues which merit a trial” as they concern allegations of “secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature”.

The decision also allowed claims for damages over the allegations, but commented that any damages awarded at trial would likely be “relatively modest” but “issues of principle are large”.

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