Google loses Safari user tracking appeal

29 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Do you use Safari? You could have the right to sue Google for snooping.

LONDON—A U.K. court ruled Friday that British iPhone users can sue Google Inc. for allegedly tracking them inappropriately via Apple Inc.’s Safari browser.(Bloomberg) — Google Inc. lost an appellate court bid to block a U.K. lawsuit filed by a group of Internet users who say the world’s biggest search engine violated their privacy rights. The decision is the latest fallout from Wall Street Journal reporting in 2012 that Google and other companies had tracked iPhone users without their consent in 2011 and 2012.

A three-judge panel said “misuse of private information should now be recognized as” causing harm or loss as it ruled the three claimants’ complaints should be heard at trial. The case revolves around a so-called Safari workaround, which allegedly allowed Google to avoid the Safari web browser’s default privacy setting to place cookies, that gathered data such as surfing habits, social class, race, ethnicity, without users’ knowledge.

In a statement, the three judges hearing the case said: “They concern what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature… about and associated with the claimants’ internet use, and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months. Lawyers for the trio said in court documents that Google’s “clandestine tracking and collation” of their Internet usage through cookies was illegal under European law.

Google has previously settled claims in the U.S. stemming from the tracking, including a $17 million settlement in 2013 with 37 states and Washington, D.C., as well as a $22.5 million settlement in 2012 with the Federal Trade Commission. The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused.” Google’s DoubleClick business regularly collects information on people’s web browsing activity through so-called ‘cookies’, lines of code stored on people’s hard drives that demarcate the user and send information to the cookie’s planter.

Internet companies are under increasing pressure from privacy groups to protect personal data, while governments across Europe have called on them to hand over information when there are concerns about national security. But DoubleClick developed what was dubbed the ‘Safari workaround’ that allowed it to track people’s activity on the rival web browser Safari, developed by Apple.

Court of Appeal in its decision Friday said that the plaintiffs had “suffered damage to personal dignity, autonomy and integrity and have been caused anxiety and distress.” The panel said that Google should have been able to tell, based on the volume of data it was collecting, that it was exceeding what should have been expected under its privacy policies. Ordinary computer users like me will now have the right to hold this giant to account before the courts for its unacceptable, immoral and unjust actions.”

Whilst it has the resources to fight individual claimants, together we have the resources and funding to bring this serious matter before the English courts and to attempt to recover damages for Safari users.

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