Google has lost a Court of Appeal bid after a group of users claimed that the search giant bypassed security settings on the Safari browser to install tracking cookies on their computers in order to target them with advertising.
The Safari workaround allegedly allowed Google to avoid the Safari web browser’s default privacy setting to place cookies. Google had attempted to prevent the action, claiming there was no case to answer because consumers had suffered no financial harm.
In its judgement, the Court of Appeal said: “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.”
Dan Tench, a partner at law firm Olswang who is acting for the claimants, welcomed the decision. “Google, a company that makes billions from advertising knowledge, claims that it was unaware that was secretly tracking Apple users for a period of nine months and had argued that no harm was done because the matter was trivial as consumers had not lost out financially,” he said.
“The Court of Appeal saw these arguments for what they are: a breach of consumers’ civil rights and actionable before the English courts. We look forward to holding Google to account for its actions.”
Google has already paid fines of over $40m related to this incident in the US. It was fined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and separately by 38 US states.