Google returns to the English High Court on Monday in a last ditch effort to prevent British consumers from having the right to sue it in the UK.
Consumers filed an action against Google in June 2013, claiming that Google ignored their wishes, bypassing security settings, to install tracking cookies on their computers in order to target them with advertising. Google was fined £13.8m in the US after being found guilty of circumventing settings on Apple devices. It also paid out a further £10.5m to settle another claim in the United States, but British internet users believe the company should also be held to account in England to prevent Google having what they call an “open goal to abuse Britons’ right to privacy.”
The consumers are outraged that Google should be attempting to prevent this case from being heard in England, particularly after the company’s Director of Communications and Public Policy, former Conservative spin-doctor, Rachel Whetstone, stated to a group of politicians in Germany that “Google hasn’t always got [privacy] right… It’s not just about the errors we have made—with products like Buzz or the mistaken collection of WiFi data—but about our attitude too. These have been lessons learned the hard way.”
“By continuing with its efforts to evade justice, Google is clearly showing that for all the talk about learning from its errors, it has much left to learn. It has never apologised to British consumers. It simply ignored us. Instead it’s focussing its massive resources mounting a campaign to prevent us holding it to account before the English courts. Google needs to start treating British consumers with respect and honesty”, said Marc Bradshaw, one of three claimants in the test case against Google. “Attempting to trivialise this serious abuse of consumers’ wishes is a disgrace. It’s high time Google apologised to British consumers and accepted that it must answer to the courts in a country where it continues to make profits. It clearly won’t do that, so it seems the only way to ensure Google is truly sorry is to force the company to pay damages to British consumers whose rights they have abused.”
Next Monday, Google will attempt to persuade the Court of Appeal to dismiss the test case, which is being brought by three members of the Google Governance Campaign. 170 potential claimants have registered interest, and millions of Apple users across the world could potentially have a claim against the company if Google’s application fails.
Dan Tench, a partner at the law firm Olswang, who represents the claimants, highlighted the case’s importance:
“Effectively, the Court of Appeal will decide whether British consumers have any means to sue Google, now or in the future. We firmly believe that this is the right forum for this case: these consumers used the internet in England and their right to privacy was ignored here through Google’s illicit use of tracking cookies. Google clearly is doing everything possible to evade answering to our courts, relying on unprincipled, highly technical but also flawed arguments to seek to overturn the High Court’s decision. Google deserves to fail And British consumers deserve this right to sue. We are confident the Court of Appeal will dismiss this last ditch effort to thwart the rights of British consumers once again.”