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.
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.