Financial News

  • 17 December 2013, 14:05

Google Seeks To Block Legal Action In UK

Google is asking the High Court to block a breach of privacy legal action launched against it in the UK by a group of British internet users.

Lawyers for the internet giant are seeking a declaration that the court has no jurisdiction to try their claims, which relate to the Apple Safari internet browser.

The group, known as Safari Users Against Google's Secret Tracking, accuse Google of bypassing security settings in order to track their online browsing and to target them with personalised advertisements.

The group includes editor and publisher Judith Vidal-Hall, along with Robert Hann and Marc Bradshaw, who are both IT security company directors.

They say Google's "clandestine" tracking and collation of internet usage between summer 2011 and spring 2012 has led to distress and embarrassment among UK users.

They argue Google's bid to block a trial is "misconceived" and the company should "answer to British justice."

Allegations against Google include misuse of private information, breach of confidence and of the 1998 Data Protection Act.

Google Inc wants London's High Court to rule that the English courts are not the proper place to bring a claim, and dissatisfied Safari users should have launched their claims in the United States, where it is based.

In written arguments before the judge, Google Inc, which is registered in Delaware and has its principal business base in California, contends any damages recovered if the claimants win are likely to be "very modest".

A trial would be likely to last six to seven days and cost in the region of 1.2m and be disproportionately expensive.

A trial was likely to be "substantial and complex" and involve a great deal of highly technical evidence about the operation of browsers, websites and cookies.

Ms Vidal-Hall said before the court hearing, expected to last two days: "Google is very much here in the UK. It has a UK specific site. It has staff here.

"It sells adverts here. It makes money here. It is ludicrous for it to claim that, despite all of this very commercial activity, it won't answer to our courts.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, appearing for Safari users, said he rejected Google's criticism that the claims being brought were uninteresting and made for "trivial" amounts.

Mr Tomlinson told the judge: "These claimants are holding Google to account for what they have done."

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