Google tries to dodge UK privacy suit

December 16, 2013 | 11:15

Tags: #advertising #doubleclick #fine #olswang #privacy #safari

Companies: #apple #ftc #google #high-court

Google has been described as 'arrogant, immoral and a disgrace' over its attempts to have dismissed a legal case brought against it by illicitly-tracked Safari users in the UK.

The advertising giant was targeted by lawsuits in the US following the discovery that it was tracking users of Apple's Safari web browser via its DoubleClick subsidiary even when the settings of the browser were configured to explicitly deny permission for said tracking. While Google claimed the move was accidental, evidence that the tracking was a deliberate breach of customers' expectations of privacy led to a $22.5 million settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission - as part of which Google was not required to admit any wrongdoing. A second case, brought by the Attorney General of New York cost the company another $17 million, again without the requirement to admit culpability.

Back in January legal firm Olswang announced a UK-based lawsuit against Google for its Safari tracking - which occurred throughout 2011 and 2012 - with 74-year-old Google and Apple customer Judith Vidal-Hall as its spokesperson. 'Google claims it does not collect personal data, but doesn't say who decides what information is "personal,"' Vidal-Hall claimed at the time. 'Whether something is private or not should be up to the internet surfer, not Google. We are best placed to decide, not them.'

Today, Google enters the High Court in an attempt to get the case thrown out on the grounds that it is a US company incorporated in California - and that, not the UK, is the best venue for a lawsuit. It's a move that could should the judge agree, see the case dismissed even before evidence as to the company's alleged wrongdoing is presented.

'Google is very much here in the UK. It has a UK specific site. It has staff here. It sells adverts here. It makes money here. It is ludicrous for it to claim that, despite all of this very commercial activity, it won't answer to our courts,' claimed Vidal-Hall ahead of the hearing today. 'If consumers are based in the UK and English laws are abused, the perpetrator must be held to account here, not in a jurisdiction that might suit them better. Google's preference that British consumers should travel all the way to California to seek redress for its wrongdoings is arrogant, immoral and a disgrace. We will fight this attempt to dismiss the case robustly.'

'British users have a right to privacy protected by English and European laws,' added Olswang's Dan Tench, who will represent the claimants in the case. 'Google may weave complex legal arguments about why the case should not be heard here, but it has a legal and moral duty to users on this side of the Atlantic not to abuse their wishes. Google must be held to account here, even though it would prefer to ignore England.'

Google has not provided public comment on the case.
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