UK Supreme Court Sides With Google in Lawsuit Over Alleged Tracking of iOS Safari Users Without Their Consent

The United Kingdom's Supreme Court today sided with Google in restoring its appeal against a lawsuit that accused it of wrongly tracking users within the iPhone's Safari browser without their consent.

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According to the ruling, the judge believed that the lawsuit, which sought to ask for compensation from Google for millions of users allegedly affected by its tracking practices, is "officious" and is acting on behalf of individuals who have not authorized such legal action.

The judge took the view that, even if the legal foundation for the claim made in this action were sound, he should exercise the discretion conferred by CPR rule 19.6(2) by refusing to allow the claim to be continued as a representative action. He characterised the claim as "officious litigation, embarked upon on behalf of individuals who have not authorised it" and in which the main beneficiaries of any award of damages would be the funders and the lawyers.

The case, Lloyd vs. Google, has been a landmark case in the world of privacy cases against larger tech companies. Richard Lloyd claims that between 2011 and 2012, Google tracked users using embedded cookies within its ads network on the iOS Safari browser, despite telling users that no such tracking was taking place.

Lloyd's case against Google was settled in the United States in August 2012, where Google was ruled to pay a $22.5 million penalty. As the FTC wrote at the time, explaining Google's wrongdoing:

In its complaint, the FTC charged that for several months in 2011 and 2012, Google placed a certain advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google's DoubleClick advertising network, although Google had previously told these users they would automatically be opted out of such tracking, as a result of the default settings of the Safari browser used in Macs, iPhones and iPads.

According to the FTC's complaint, Google specifically told Safari users that because the Safari browser is set by default to block third-party cookies, as long as users do not change their browser settings, this setting "effectively accomplishes the same thing as [opting out of this particular Google advertising tracking cookie]."

London's High Court initially blocked attempts to bring the case against Google, but the Court of Appeal upheld it. Google subsequently appealed that decision, escalating the case to the UK's Supreme Court. The high court today has decided to keep in place the appeal.

Top Rated Comments

squawk7000 Avatar
10 weeks ago
The judges point out the only winners would be the lawyers
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kabeyun Avatar
10 weeks ago
Before everyone jumps on this without actually reading the article, note that this was essentially a ruling based on standing rather than the merits.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
squawk7000 Avatar
10 weeks ago
The bottom line is that the UK does not have a class action mechanism (apart from special circumstances). Hence the claim was incompetent as "officious litigation, embarked upon on behalf of individuals who have not authorised it".
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
coolbreeze2 Avatar
10 weeks ago

The bottom line is that the UK does not have a class action mechanism (apart from special circumstances). Hence the claim was incompetent as "officious litigation, embarked upon on behalf of individuals who have not authorised it".
Ok I understand now. Although the accusation against Google was true, those who brought the lawsuit and no authority to initiate the lawsuit. Therefore, Google gets away with lying to users.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Pezimak Avatar
10 weeks ago

In layman's terms, what is the bottom line? Did the British court decide that Google tracked users despite telling users they were not tracking and although Google did this, it's OK and no penalty for Google?
I think they concluded it was a complete waste of time as 'millions' of people did not give their consent for the law case against google being performed under their names. So the court has in effect throwing the case out highlighting it as a waste of time and only the lawyers will be the beneficiaries from such a case, not the consumers. That's how I've read it.

I also wonder if this means google has not breached any U.K. privacy laws as such either if they've thrown the case out?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
now i see it Avatar
10 weeks ago
I like being tracked. It makes me feel important
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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