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The United Kingdom's Supreme Court today sided with Google in restoring its appeal against a lawsuit that accused it of wrongly tracking users within the iPhone's Safari browser without their consent.

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According to the ruling, the judge believed that the lawsuit, which sought to ask for compensation from Google for millions of users allegedly affected by its tracking practices, is "officious" and is acting on behalf of individuals who have not authorized such legal action.
The judge took the view that, even if the legal foundation for the claim made in this action were sound, he should exercise the discretion conferred by CPR rule 19.6(2) by refusing to allow the claim to be continued as a representative action. He characterised the claim as "officious litigation, embarked upon on behalf of individuals who have not authorised it" and in which the main beneficiaries of any award of damages would be the funders and the lawyers.
The case, Lloyd vs. Google, has been a landmark case in the world of privacy cases against larger tech companies. Richard Lloyd claims that between 2011 and 2012, Google tracked users using embedded cookies within its ads network on the iOS Safari browser, despite telling users that no such tracking was taking place.

Lloyd's case against Google was settled in the United States in August 2012, where Google was ruled to pay a $22.5 million penalty. As the FTC wrote at the time, explaining Google's wrongdoing:
In its complaint, the FTC charged that for several months in 2011 and 2012, Google placed a certain advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google's DoubleClick advertising network, although Google had previously told these users they would automatically be opted out of such tracking, as a result of the default settings of the Safari browser used in Macs, iPhones and iPads.

According to the FTC's complaint, Google specifically told Safari users that because the Safari browser is set by default to block third-party cookies, as long as users do not change their browser settings, this setting "effectively accomplishes the same thing as [opting out of this particular Google advertising tracking cookie]."
London's High Court initially blocked attempts to bring the case against Google, but the Court of Appeal upheld it. Google subsequently appealed that decision, escalating the case to the UK's Supreme Court. The high court today has decided to keep in place the appeal.

Article Link: UK Supreme Court Sides With Google in Lawsuit Over Alleged Tracking of iOS Safari Users Without Their Consent
 
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Pezimak

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In layman's terms, what is the bottom line? Did the British court decide that Google tracked users despite telling users they were not tracking and although Google did this, it's OK and no penalty for Google?

I think they concluded it was a complete waste of time as 'millions' of people did not give their consent for the law case against google being performed under their names. So the court has in effect throwing the case out highlighting it as a waste of time and only the lawyers will be the beneficiaries from such a case, not the consumers. That's how I've read it.

I also wonder if this means google has not breached any U.K. privacy laws as such either if they've thrown the case out?
 
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coolbreeze2

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Sep 24, 2009
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The bottom line is that the UK does not have a class action mechanism (apart from special circumstances). Hence the claim was incompetent as "officious litigation, embarked upon on behalf of individuals who have not authorised it".
Ok I understand now. Although the accusation against Google was true, those who brought the lawsuit and no authority to initiate the lawsuit. Therefore, Google gets away with lying to users.
 

coolbreeze2

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Sep 24, 2009
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I think they concluded it was a complete waste of time as 'millions' of people did not give their consent for the law case against google being performed under their names. So the court has in effect throwing the case out highlighting it as a waste of time and only the lawyers will be the beneficiaries from such a case, not the consumers. That's how I've read it.

I also wonder if this means google has not breached any U.K. privacy laws as such either if they've thrown the case out?
Thanks for the clarity.
 
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Pezimak

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The bottom line is that the UK does not have a class action mechanism (apart from special circumstances). Hence the claim was incompetent as "officious litigation, embarked upon on behalf of individuals who have not authorised it".

Also this.
 

Pezimak

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Thanks for the clarity.
In the U.K. we do have strong privacy laws though, and if a company breaches those then they are in trouble. Usually with government or the regulators which I guess is the same thing. That's how it's setup here really. Although I don't think theirs anything to stop individuals taking Google to court, but you'd need to be very brave and have buckets of cash to do so.

It's very confusing when it comes to laws regulations and interpretations of it all, and it's different in each country with different processes it seems.
 
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velocityg4

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Ok I understand now. Although the accusation against Google was true, those who brought the lawsuit and no authority to initiate the lawsuit. Therefore, Google gets away with lying to users.
I don't think they ruled whether it was true or not. Just that they had sound reason for the suit. But they didn't properly gather people for the class action.

It seems to me. The lawyers (barristers?) would be able to bring the suit back. If they actually go out and get the signatures of the millions they claimed to represent. At which point they'd get a chance to prove their case.
 

NightFox

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Ok I understand now. Although the accusation against Google was true, those who brought the lawsuit and no authority to initiate the lawsuit. Therefore, Google gets away with lying to users.

The court didn't make any judgement at all on the actual accusation - it would only do that if it first deemed the lawsuit was valid, which in this case it didn't.
 

RalfTheDog

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I don't care who gets the money, just so long as Google pays the price. If you lie to consumers about how you use their information, you need to pay a big price. If you lie to the random public who are not your customers about collecting their information and selling it, that should be criminal.
 

jlc1978

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Aug 14, 2009
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Before everyone jumps of this without actually reading the article, note that this was essentially a ruling based on standing rather than the merits.

IANAL, but the ruling was interesting to read. It appears, from a layman's perspective, the judge ruled on the basis:

1. The class claimed was too broad, i.e. not everyone in England and Wales has an iPhone, some blocked google, etc. so you didn't prove all were impacted
2. You can't simply claim everyone is entitled to the same remedy since the damages could be different for different members and thus you would need to determine each member's actual damage, and as a result
3. doing 2 would make the case unprofitable for the funders and thus not pursued, so they can't do an end around to try to get to court and claim to be representing the class they claimed.

It also seems to draw a distinction between damages and distress and whether distress can be a basis for claiming damages on its own absent actual damages.

I don't think they ruled whether it was true or not. Just that they had sound reason for the suit. But they didn't properly gather people for the class action.

It seems to me. The lawyers (barristers?) would be able to bring the suit back. If they actually go out and get the signatures of the millions they claimed to represent. At which point they'd get a chance to prove their case.

Except as the ruling pointed out that is unlikely given the costs associated with doing that and deciding individual damages would far exceed any damage award, assuming they won. If they lost, they, the litigation funding organization, could be liable for Google's legal fees, if I read the decision correctly, which would also make it less likely they would try to sue.

In layman's terms, what is the bottom line? Did the British court decide that Google tracked users despite telling users they were not tracking and although Google did this, it's OK and no penalty for Google?

No, it said they, the group claiming to represent a class, can't sue Google based on the arguments presented.
 

4jasontv

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Jul 31, 2011
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Does the UK not have samaritan laws? I forget what it’s called, but it’s when you have an obligation to help strangers because you positioned yourself to help.
 
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