The UK Supreme Court has blocked a proposed £ 3.2 billion (approximately Rs.31.929 billion) British class action lawsuit against Google on allegations that the internet giant illegally prosecuted the personal information of millions of iPhone users. Britain’s chief judge unanimously upheld a Google complaint against the country’s first such data protection case on Wednesday.
The landmark case, led by Richard Lloyd, a consumer rights activist and former director of Which? Magazine, seeks to extend the UK class action lawsuit system to include claims for damages for alleged misuse of data – even when there is no apparent financial loss or distress.
Lloyd, backed by a commercial litigation funder, alleged that Google secretly stole more than 5 million personal data from Apple iPhone users between 2011 and 2012 by bypassing the default privacy settings in Safari browsers in order to restrict their browsing history track and use them for commercial purposes.
“We are bitterly disappointed that the Supreme Court has not done enough to protect the public from Google and other big tech companies that are breaking the law,” he said.
Milberg law firm attorney James Oldnall called it a “dark day when corporate greed over our right to privacy is valued”.
Google said it has focused for years on products and infrastructure that respect and protect people’s privacy and that the claim referred to events that happened a decade ago and were raised then.
The British economy also welcomed the verdict. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said allowing such a case could have deterred investment and hurt businesses across the economy.
“The Supreme Court has recognized that ‘loss of control’ over an individual’s personal information is in itself insufficient to initiate a class action lawsuit for compensation,” said Kate Scott, partner at Clifford Chance law firm.
“The data disputes will undoubtedly continue, but with a focus on claims that have actually been damaged – this is the right outcome for all companies, not just big tech companies like Google.”
In a US-style agent or class action lawsuit, a group of people affected by the same problem is represented by a single person and is automatically part of a lawsuit without filing individually unless they object.
Proponents of such lawsuits say they allow access to justice for those with small individual claims or without sufficient financial resources to often take on large, powerful corporations.
Critics say such lawsuits fuel unsubstantiated lawsuits, fueled by opportunistic commercial litigation funders and law firms.
© Thomson Reuters 2021