NEWS12 November 2021

UK supreme court blocks data privacy lawsuit against Google

News Privacy UK

UK – The UK’s highest court has rejected a £3.2bn legal action filed on behalf of Apple iPhone users over Google’s alleged tracking of personal data.

Google HQ

Former Which? director Richard Lloyd, supported by campaign group Google You Owe Us, wanted to bring a “representative action” against the US-based tech giant on behalf of around four million people in the UK, who were said to be owed £750 each for the breach of privacy.

Lloyd alleged that Google gathered information on iPhone users after it “illegally misused the data” of millions of users through the “clandestine tracking and collation” of information about internet usage via the phones’ Safari browser. He was seeking damages under the 1998 data protection act on the basis that Google’s tracking caused those affected financial damage and mental distress.

Speaking at the supreme court, Justice Lord Leggatt said: “I reject these arguments and conclude that the claim cannot succeed. The attempt to recover compensation without proving any facts particular to any individual iPhone user, and without alleging or proving that Google’s alleged unlawful conduct caused any financial damage or mental distress to any such individual, is therefore unsustainable.”

Lloyd said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the supreme court’s ruling, adding: “They have overturned a very clear ruling by senior, expert judges in the court of appeal.”

A Google spokesperson said: “This claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and that we addressed at the time.”

The long-running case began in 2017 and had been through the high court and the court of appeal before being escalated to the supreme court. If it had succeeded, it could have opened the floodgates to many more class action suits against tech firms for data breaches.

Back in 2012, Google was forced to pay the largest fine ever imposed on a single company by the US Federal Trade Commission. The firm agreed to pay $22.5m (£16.8m) after monitoring web surfers using Apple’s Safari browser who had a do not track privacy setting selected. However, the firm said the data collection was “accidental” and did not admit liability.