London’s High Court on Monday shot down a representative action — similar to a U.S. class action — lawsuit filed against Google, which chiefly accused the Silicon Valley search-giant of illegally collecting and profiting from the internet usage habits of as many as 5.4 million iPhone users in the U.K.
In his decision to block the case, Judge Mark Warby chiefly pointed out that the claims of damage corroborated by plaintiffs “Google You Owe Us” were largely unsupported by the facts presented. And calculating the actual number of iPhone users who may or may not have been impacted (and to what extent they were) is “just as impossible” as handing down a “fair and just ruling” in the case.
The case itself stems from complaints spanning as far back as 2012, when it was discovered that Google was intentionally circumventing Apple’s Safari security settings which directly related to the blocking of third-party tracking cookies.
The group “Google You Owe Us” ultimately sued Google in 2017 over the claims, asserting that as many as 5.4 million people may have been impacted by the search-giant’s illegal harvesting of valuable ad data.
Richard Lloyd — a Former Special Advisor to the U.K. Prime Minister, and the leader of “Google You Owe Us” — responded to the Court’s decision Monday afternoon, saying in a statement that “Today’s judgment is extremely disappointing and effectively leaves millions of people without any practical way to seek redress and compensation when their personal data has been misused.”
“Google’s business model is based on using personal data to target adverts to consumers and they must ask permission before using this data,” Lloyd added. “The court accepted that people did not give permission in this case yet slammed the door shut on holding Google to account.”
According to court documents, Lloyd was initially seeking 3.2 billion pounds ($4.3 billion) on behalf of himself and as many as 5.4 million impacted users — however he reduced the amount to just 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion), curiously, as an estimated 20,000 individuals had signed on to the suit by the time it was shut down.
The suit’s dismissal in the U.K. follows a 2013 judgment against Google in the U.S., which saw the search-giant shell out just $17 million to settle claims it had been using “Safari Bypass” to track iPhone user’s internet habits.
Amid that class action settlement, Google promised to neither interfere with nor otherwise manipulate a web browser’s cookie blocking features ever again — unless given specific consent from the user.