British iPhone users can sue Google over the alleged misuse of privacy settings, a U.K. court of appeal ruled today.
A small group of iPhone owners have accused Google of circumventing security settings on Apple’s Safari browser to install tracking cookies on their devices to target them with ads. Google was also allegedly able to collect data on users’ surfing habits, social class, race and ethnicity — all without users being any the wiser.
Google, the BBC reported, had told the court there was no case because consumers had not suffered any financial harm.
The Court of Appeal, however, disagreed.
“These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial,” the court said in its judgment. “They concern what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature… about and associated with the claimants’ internet use, and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months. The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused.”
The court’s decision could mean Google will face lawsuits from the millions of U.K. residents who were using Apple products: Macs, iPhones, iPods and iPads during the summer of 2011 through to the spring 2012, Jonathan Hawker, a representative of the Google Action Group, told the BBC.
“The Court of Appeal has ensured Google cannot use its vast resources to evade English justice,” one of the claimants, Judith Vidal-Hall, told the BBC.
“Ordinary computer users like me will now have the right to hold this giant to account before the courts for its unacceptable, immoral and unjust actions.”
Google had little to say on the matter other than it was “disappointed with the court’s decision.”