UK Supreme Court Sides With Google in Lawsuit Over Alleged Tracking of iOS Safari Users Without Their Consent

Today, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom sided with Google and restored its appeal against a lawsuit alleging that it wrongly tracked users using Safari on an iPhone without their consent.

The judge ruled that the lawsuit seeking to seek compensation from Google for the millions of users who were allegedly affected by its tracking methods was "officious" and was acting for individuals who had not authorized it.

Even if the legal basis for the claim in this action was sound, the judge felt that he should use the discretion granted by CPR rule 19.6(2) and refuse to allow the claim be continued as representative action. The judge described the claim as "officious litigation", which was initiated on behalf of people who had not authorized it. In which the main beneficiaries would be the funders, and the lawyers.

Lloyd vs. Google is a landmark case in privacy cases against large tech companies. Richard Lloyd claims that Google tracked iOS Safari users using embedded cookies in its ads network, even though it told them that this was not happening.

In August 2012, Lloyd's lawsuit against Google was settled in America. Google was ordered to pay $22.5 million in penalties. The FTC explained Google's wrongdoing in a letter they wrote at that time:

The FTC alleged that Google placed an advertising tracking cookie on Safari users who visited websites within Google's DoubleClick network over several months in 2011, 2012 and 2013. However, Google had previously informed these users that they would be opt out of such tracking due to the Safari browser default settings. FTC's complaint states that Google explicitly told Safari users that the Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default and that users can opt out of such tracking as long as they do not modify their browser settings.

Although the High Court of London initially rejected attempts to bring the case against Google in court, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision. Google appealed this decision and escalated the case to the UK Supreme Court. Today, the high court affirmed that the appeal will be allowed.