Skip to main content

Google escapes billion-dollar privacy lawsuit in the UK

Google escapes billion-dollar privacy lawsuit in the UK

Share this story

A Google logo sits at the center of ominous concentric circles
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The UK’s High Court of Justice has blocked an attempt by a campaign group to sue Google for allegedly tracking millions of users without their consent, reports BBC News. The group, “Google, You Owe Us,” claims that as many as 5.4 million users were affected by Google’s tracking between August 2011 and February 2012, and sought around £1 billion ($1.3 billion) in damages from the search giant.

Google has already gotten into trouble as the result of the so-called “Safari Workaround,” which ignored user’s cookie settings within the Safari browser to track them regardless. Back in 2012, the company paid a $22.5 million fine to the FTC for “[misrepresenting] to Safari browser users how to avoid targeted advertising by Google.” At the time, the fine was the largest ever levied by the FTC.

“Wrongful, and a breach of duty.”

Despite this, it still wasn’t possible to proceed with the case in the UK, even as the justice who oversaw the case admitted that “arguably” Google’s alleged role “was wrongful, and a breach of duty.” Although the data gained could have potentially allowed Google to make more money with better targeted ads, it’s impossible to say how much the affected users were actually damaged — although Google You Owe Us claims the damage amounted to £750 (around $980) per person.

The campaign group has said that it plans to appeal the ruling on behalf of the 20,000 people who signed up. Meanwhile, Google said it was “pleased” to see the court dismiss the claim, although it added that the privacy and security of its users is “extremely important” to the company.