The High Court has thrown out a class action against Google – led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd – over claims that it carried out “clandestine tracking and collation” of personal information from 4.4 million iPhone users in the UK.
The case centred on how Google used ad-tracking cookies on the devices running Apple’s web browsing system Safari, which is set by default to block such cookies. Some 5.4 million UK users are said to have been affected.
Lloyd set up a consumer campaign group called Google You Owe Us in 2017 as part of the legal action and the website now has 20,000 co-claimants. The group was seeking £3.2bn in compensation.
Mr Justice Warby, who oversaw the case, explained that it was blocked because the claims that people suffered damage were not supported by the facts advanced by the campaign group.
Another reason, he said, was the impossibility of reliably calculating the number of iPhone users affected by the alleged privacy breach.
Lloyd said in a statement: “Today’s judgment is extremely disappointing and effectively leaves millions of people without any practical way to seek redress and compensation when their personal data has been misused.”
He added that he would seek permission to appeal against the verdict on behalf of the 20,000 people who signed up to the campaign.
In response to the court ruling, Google said: “”The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. This claim is without merit, and we’re pleased the court has dismissed it.”
At the original hearing in May, lawyers for Google You Owe Us told the court that data collected by Google included race, physical and mental heath, political leanings, sexuality, social class, financial, shopping habits and location data.
It is claimed that the information was then “aggregated” and users were put into groups such as “football lovers” or “current affairs enthusiasts” for the targeting of advertising.
Google has already paid out millions of dollars to settle claims in the US relating to the practice, after action taken by the US Federal Trade Commission in 2012.
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