A group of UK-based Safari-users attempting to sue Google over privacy infringement have been rebuffed by the search giant, who say that UK law does not apply to them.
The campaign group, known as Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking, have accused Google of bypassing the security settings on the Safari browser in order to track their presence online, personalizing Google’s adverts.
Google have already been successfully sued for the same offence in the US in August 2012, and were forced to pay a fine of $22.5 million by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The fine was levied for violating an FTC order that the search giant would not misrepresent “the extent to which consumers can exercise control over the collection of their information.”
In January 2013, inspired by the US case, a group of Britons filed a Group Action lawsuit against Google. Now, a recent statement by Olswang LLC, the law firm acting for the group, has said that Google have refused to be served in the UK and that they will only recognise the lawsuit in the US, where the company is based.
Olswang LLC also say that Google have described the case as “not serious, saying that the browsing habits of internet users are not protected as personal information, even when they potentially concern their physical health or sexuality.”
Judith Vidal-Hall, one of the claimants, responding by saying: “Google’s position on the law is the same as its position on tax: they will only play or pay on their home turf. What are they suggesting- that they will force Apple users whose privacy was violated to pay to travel to California to take action when they offer a service in this country on a .co.uk site? This matches their attitude to consumer privacy. They don’t respect it and they don’t consider themselves to be answerable to our laws on it.”
Another claimant named Marc Bradshaw, said that “It seems to us absurd to suggest that consumers can’t bring a claim against a company which is operating in the UK and is even constructing a $1 billion headquarters in London.”
If consumers can’t bring a civil claim against a company in a country where it operates,” said Bradsahw, “the only way of ensuring it behaves is by having a robust regulator. But the UK regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office, has said to me that all it can do is fine Google if it breaks the law, but Google clearly doesn’t think that it is bound by that law."
"Fines would be useless – even if Google agreed to pay them - because Google earns more than the maximum fine in less than two hours. With no restraint Google is free to continue to invade our privacy whether we like it or not.”