UK Court Allows Activists to Sue Google Over Safari Tracking

by

A UK Court will allow a group of privacy experts to sue Google over the company's circumvention of privacy settings in Apple's Safari browser, reports Gigaom. Following this ruling, the activists can pursue a tort claim that alleges Google misused their private information. The Honourable Mr Justice Tugendhat writes in his decision:

"I am satisfied that there is a serious issue to be tried in each of the Claimants’ claims for misuse of private information… The Claimants’ application to rely on ground (9) in relation to the DPA [Data Protection Act] claim is allowed… the Claimants have clearly established that this jurisdiction is the appropriate one in which to try each of the above claims.”

This case stems from Google's former practice of installing cookies in Safari even when the web browser blocked that practice. Google circumvented the browser's default privacy settings by tricking Safari into thinking a web page was a trusted page. Google did this through code embedded in its ads that made Safari think the user was submitting a form. When a user fills out a form, Safari makes an exception in its privacy policy and allows a cookie to be installed on a user's device, and Google exploited this exception to install cookies without the permission of the user.

google_safari_ios_tracking

Graphic from The Wall Street Journal

Google halted this practice in 2012 after it was reported by The Wall Street Journal, but consumers and regulators pursued the case through several investigations and lawsuits. The company was fined $22.5 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for this privacy violation and paid a $17 million settlement in a case filed on behalf of Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
89 months ago
Good. Next up, everybody else who thinks its a good idea to take personal information without permission ...*COUGH*... NSA.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
89 months ago
Google's going down!
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
89 months ago
I'm all for privacy, but where does this cash go?

The company was fined $22.5 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for this privacy violation and paid a $17 million settlement in a case filed on behalf of Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia.


Why are 37 states getting paid because Google screws me?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
89 months ago

As a rule, a similar offense repeated would result in a much bigger fine for that reason.

And maybe $22.5 million means nothing to Google. However, you'll have to ask yourself how much benefit Google got from this, and I don't think it was $22.5 million. Someone wrote the code and is responsible for $22.5 million unnecessary cost. He has a manager who asked him to write the code or didn't prevent it, and is responsible for $22.5 million unneccessary cost. They are not going to be told, "that's ok, do it again if you have an opportunity" but will get some major telling off.


Way to try to minimize what Google did. It was all just a simple low-level mistake. They didn't really mean to do it. Horse hockey. Just like they didn't mean to gather data on people's wifi networks as they drove around the country for street view. It was all just a simple coding error. Google didn't mean to do it. Google is doing everything it can to gather every shred of information they can on everyone they can. It is their business model.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
88 months ago

You are completely misunderstanding what I said. They may have a severe cultural/attitude problem at Google, dictated from the top, and something like this cannot be explained otherwise. But there is one programmer, one manager, one department head, who cost the company 22 million dollars, and that's not something that is easily forgiven.


I think the point that you're either minimizing or forgetting is the fact that Google made that $22 million (plus the $17 million paid to the states) in less than a day of their surreptitious spying. Fact is, this is a cultural issue within Google, and it is their business model. But wrist slaps like this are nothing to them.

This is a company that just paid $3.2 billion for Nest. I like my Nest product, but there is no way the technology that they created is worth $3.2 billion. Google bought the ability to snoop into peoples' lives.

The only way you stop a giant with no moral values is to hurt them really, really bad in the pocket book. That $22 million fine would have only started to be felt if the amount was billion instead of million...
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
88 months ago

This trial is in the UK so different rules are likely to apply. For example, in the USA you would have to prove a loss but from the article, we have this "The Claimants' application to rely on ground (9) in relation to the DPA [Data Protection Act] claim is allowed." so the plaintiffs' case appears to be built on Google violating the Digital Protection Act which appears to be a United Kingdom law. This would be why Google wants it to be tried in the USA so they need to prove a loss and the DPA would not be applicable.

That said, one could argue that their is a loss. While the information taken by Google may have no monetary value to the plaintiff, it does have monetary value as it is used by Google to increase their ad sales. Without the data, the click through rate is lower. Hence, the value would be the difference in the ad revenue for a group that had the information collected versus the ad revenue for a group that did not have the information collected. The information is worth a lot of money as you can see from Google's advertising sales. Without advertising sales, Google is nothing.


DPA = Data Protection Act, it's a European Law that sets controls about how and where customer data is stored/transferred. These companies (e.g. Google) dance around it, it's about time we set a precedent for foreign companies using us as the product.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Early iPhone 12 Tests Show Ceramic Shield is Stronger and More Scratch Resistant Than iPhone 11 Glass

Friday October 23, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 models are protected by a Ceramic Shield cover glass that has nano-ceramic crystals infused right into the glass to improve durability. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield offers four times better drop protection than the glass used for the iPhone 11 models. YouTube channel MobileReviewsEh conducted some tests on the iPhone 12 using a force meter to compare its performance ...

iPhone 12 Pro Allows You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly Using LiDAR Scanner

Saturday October 24, 2020 11:12 am PDT by
iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new LiDAR Scanner for enhanced augmented reality experiences, but the sensor also enables another unique feature: the ability to measure a person's height instantly using the Measure app. You can even measure the seated height of a person in a chair, according to Apple. When the Measure app detects a person in the viewfinder, it automatically measures their...

Google Reportedly Pays Apple $8-12 Billion Per Year to be Default iOS Search Engine

Sunday October 25, 2020 2:59 pm PDT by
The United States Justice Department is targeting a lucrative deal between Apple and Google as part of one of the U.S. government's largest antitrust cases, reports The New York Times. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the Mountain View-based company used anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and advertising markets to ...

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

Apple Warns MagSafe Charger Can Leave Circular Imprints on Leather Cases

Friday October 23, 2020 3:23 pm PDT by
If you keep your iPhone in a leather case while charging with Apple's new MagSafe Charger, the case might show circular imprints from contact with the accessory, according to a new Apple support document published today. Apple's leather cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are not available until November 6, but a MacRumors reader has already shared a photo of a circular imprint on...

iPhone 11 Pro Outlasts iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Extensive Battery Life Test

Friday October 23, 2020 8:36 am PDT by
Arun Maini today shared a new side-by-side iPhone battery life video test on his YouTube channel Mrwhosetheboss, timing how long the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models last on a single charge compared to older models, with equal brightness, settings, battery health, and usage. All of the devices are running iOS 14 without a SIM card inserted. In the test, the iPhone 11 Pro outlasted both ...

PSA: Non-iPhone 12 Models Charge Super Slowly With MagSafe Charger

Friday October 23, 2020 4:11 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced a new $39 MagSafe Charger that's meant to work with the magnets in the iPhone 12 Pro models to charge them up at a maximum of 15W. The MagSafe Charger is technically able to be used with older iPhones, but it's not a good idea because the charging with non-iPhone 12 devices is so slow. We did two tests with the iPhone XS Max, draining the...

MagSafe Charger Teardown Reveals Simple Design With Magnets and Charging Coil Encircling a Small Circuit Board

Friday October 23, 2020 7:50 am PDT by
iFixit has today shared a teardown of Apple's new MagSafe charger for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. An X-ray of the MagSafe charger courtesy of Creative Electron reveals the internal charging coil surrounded by a circular arrangement of magnets within the puck. The only seam that iFixit was able to leverage to open the device was where the white rubber circle meets the metal rim,...

Apple VP Kaiann Drance Interview Addresses Battery Life, MagSafe, and Power Adapter Concerns

Friday October 23, 2020 3:37 am PDT by
Apple's Vice President of iPhone Marketing, Kaiann Drance, has provided a new interview to Rich DeMuro on the Rich on Tech Podcast, to discuss the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Although much of the interview repeated points from Apple's "Hi, Speed" event, there were a number of interesting tidbits regarding the affect of 5G on battery life, MagSafe concerns, and the lack of a power adapter in...

iFixit Shares Full iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Teardown Revealing Interchangeable Displays and Batteries

Saturday October 24, 2020 1:48 pm PDT by
After live streaming a teardown of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro earlier this week, iFixit today provided a more in-depth teardown that goes through all of the components in the new devices, revealing several similarities between the two. Early testing conducted by iFixit shows that the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro displays are interchangeable and can be swapped without issue, though the max...