Google lost its fight to keep UK residents from filing lawsuits over the Safari browser tracking cookies it placed on their computers even when they explicitly blocked the activity. The Court of Appeal ruling means potentially millions of people can file lawsuits against the company over claims that their privacy has been violated.
Get ready for privacy violation lawsuits against Google in the UK
The Court of Appeal said in its ruling,
These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial. 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. The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused.
Google found itself in an awkward position in early 2012 when news surfaced that the Internet search giant was working around the privacy settings in Apple's Safari Web browser to track user's online activity. The company then sold the data to online advertising companies such as Media Innovation and Vibrant Media. Google denied it was doing anything wrong and said it was simply taking advantage of "known functionality" in Safari.
The FTC took an interest in Google's actions in the United States, and ultimately the search company agreed to pay a US$22.5 million fine to avoid a court room battle. Google followed up with a $17 million settlement with 37 states.
The English High Court shot down Google's efforts to stop breach of privacy lawsuits, and then again when it tried to overturn that ruling in the Cour of Appeal. "This is an important decision that prevents Google from evading or trivialising these very serious intrusions into the privacy of British consumers," said Dan Tench, representative for the claimants in the lawsuit.
With the court giving the green light to lawsuits against, it's a safe bet plenty will be coming.