Supreme Court will rule today on if Google should face £3bn legal action that could force it to pay 4.4million British iPhone users £750 each for ‘secretly tracking their internet use’

  • The UK Supreme Court to rule today on £3billion Google legal action 
  • Google is accused of secretly tracking UK iPhone users’ internet activity  
  • Ex-Which? director Richard Lloyd wants to bring action against the tech giant
  • He claims Google ‘illegally misused’ data’ through the ‘Safari workaround’
  • Google’s lawyers insist there is no suggestion the so-called workaround resulted in any information being disclosed to third parties

The UK’s highest court will rule today on whether a billion-pound legal action against Google over allegations it secretly tracked millions of iPhone users’ internet activity should be allowed to go ahead.

Former Which? director Richard Lloyd, supported by the campaign group Google You Owe Us, wants to bring a ‘representative action’ against the tech giant on behalf of 4.4 million people in England and Wales.

He claims Google ‘illegally misused the data of millions of iPhone users’, through the ‘clandestine tracking and collation’ of information about internet usage on iPhones’ Safari browser, known as the ‘Safari workaround’. 

Mr Lloyd and Google You Owe Us hope to win up to £3billion in compensation for alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act that could force the company to pay each British iPhone user £750. 

Google’s lawyers insist there is no suggestion the so-called workaround resulted in any information being disclosed to third parties. 

In 2018, the High Court ruled that Mr Lloyd could not serve the claim on Google outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales, but that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal in October 2019.

Google challenged the Court of Appeal’s judgment at a hearing in April and a panel of five Supreme Court justices will give their ruling on the case this morning.

The UK’s highest court will rule today on whether a billion-pound legal action against Google over allegations it secretly tracked millions of iPhone users’ internet activity should be allowed to go ahead. Pictured, the Googleplex in California

Google’s lawyers argued that the landmark ruling could ‘open the floodgates’ to vast claims brought on behalf of millions of people against companies responsible for handling people’s data. 

Antony White QC told the Supreme Court that ‘a number of substantial representative actions have been commenced seeking compensation for breach of data protection rights’ since the Court of Appeal’s judgment.

Mr White said allowing such claims to be brought could have ‘profound and far-reaching implications across all civil litigation’.

He argued that, under data protection laws, ‘compensation is only available for ‘damage’ suffered as a consequence of the (data) breach, and not for the breach itself’.

Mr White added that ‘the technical matters which gave rise to the ‘Safari workaround’ were rectified many years ago’.

The barrister also said that ‘the true purpose’ of Mr Lloyd’s proposed claim was ‘to pursue a high-profile public campaign for ‘accountability’ against Google, rather than to obtain redress’ for any data breaches.

Former Which? director Richard Lloyd, supported by the campaign group Google You Owe Us, wants to bring a ‘representative action’ against the tech giant on behalf of 4.4 million people in England and Wales

Google challenged the Court of Appeal’s judgment at a hearing in April and a panel of five Supreme Court justices will give their ruling on the case this morning

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Mr Lloyd, said: ‘The fundamental question in this case is whether the courts can provide access to justice and, potentially, a remedy in cases where a very large number of people are affected by breaches of their data protection rights.’

Mr Tomlinson added that the millions of proposed claimants would ‘not have access to justice’ if Mr Lloyd’s claim was not allowed to go ahead.

He argued that ‘the existing state of society, with the mass trade in personal data, requires the court to adapt its practice and course of proceedings to allow the victims of large-scale data breaches access to remedies’.

Mr Tomlinson said doing so would provide the proposed claimants represented by Mr Lloyd ‘with access to justice and a remedy which would otherwise be entirely absent’.

Google You Owe Us and Mr Lloyd claim Google bypassed privacy settings on Apple iPhone handsets between August 2011 and February 2012 and used the data gathered to divide people into categories for advertisers.

They say ‘browser-generated information’ collected by Google included racial or ethnic origin, physical and mental heath, political affiliations or opinions, sexual interests and social class. 

Jamie Curle, a partner at law firm DLA Piper, described the judgment as ‘one of the most eagerly awaited decisions of recent years’.

He added that it would have ‘a significant impact on the volume and nature of litigation in the data privacy arena’. 

The Supreme Court judges will deliver their ruling at 9.45am.

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