Google may have paid out tens of millions of dollars to settle three legal cases in the US but remains stubbornly resolute against a British consumer group which is seeking up to £3.2bn in compensation in a long-running “data slurping” case.
According to reports, the tech giant has coughed up $11m to over 200 people who sued the firm for not hiring them because they were too old; paid a “substantial” settlement to the Federal Trade Commission over accusations that it has abused children’s data; and shelled out £13m to privacy groups after its StreetView cars were found to have gathered personal information from private Wifi networks.
However, at the High Court in London it has attempted to dodge paying out a bean to the “Google You Owe Us” group, set up by former Which? director Richard Lloyd, which alleges the company bypassed the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari browser to capture data to sell it to advertisers.
The original case was thrown out in October last year but the group launched an appeal last week, in which it reiterated its claim that millions of consumers had suffered “damage” from the incident.
Unsurprisingly Google’s barrister Anthony White QC pooh-poohed this version of events, adding that “Google You Owe Us” had no concrete figure on how many people had actually objected.
White even went on to claim that some people might have actively wanted to receive targeted ads, an assertion which sparked a stiff rebuke from Chancellor of the High Court Sir Geoffrey Vos, who blasted Google for attempting to squirm out of the case on a technicality.
While steeped in legal gobbledegook, Vos said: “The key point is can you get compensation for a data breach, alone, for what Google did wrong, alone, even if distress is not caused? And, confusingly, saying, ‘Well, we can’t find a way of giving a proper figure to that because we’d have to give the same to everybody’ doesn’t really help the answer to that argument.
“The corollary of the argument you [White] put is, you’re entitled in this situation – you’re entitled to take people’s data, deal with it without their consent in violation of the [EU Data Protection] directive without paying any damages, because one of two reasons: no tariff is available; or because some of the people who claim might not have suffered any distress, or upset, or anything else.
“[White claims] you’re entitled to do what you did, which is a clear and in some cases very serious wrong, and because of the happenstance that some people may not have been damaged or the happenstance that the only way of compensating it might be by some unconventional way, that you completely get away with it.”
Judgment on the case is due later this year.
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