UK Court Allows Activists to Sue Google Over Safari Tracking

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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

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86 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)
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86 months ago
Google's going down!
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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86 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)
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86 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)
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85 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)
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85 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)

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