A lawsuit accusing Google of unlawfully collecting iPhone users’ personal data was rejected today by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
The case was brought against Google’s parent company, Alphabet, by Richard Lloyd, former director of consumer rights group Which? Lloyd claimed that Google used cookies to gather data on health, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and finance through Apple’s Safari web browser, regardless of whether users had selected the privacy setting “do not track.”
Lloyd alleged that between 2011 and 2012, Google secretly collected information about more than 5 million iPhone users, then exploited the data for commercial profit. The suit sought $4.3bn in compensation for British iPhone users whose data had allegedly been illegally tracked.
In his judgement, Lord Leggatt said that Lloyd had sought compensation for millions of people without proof of damage.
“The claimant seeks damages . . . for each individual member of the represented class without attempting to show that any wrongful use was made by Google of personal data relating to that individual or that the individual suffered any material damage or distress as a result of a breach,” it read.
“Without proof of these matters, a claim for damages cannot succeed.”
However, Leggatt said that Lloyd’s claim had a “real chance of success” if instead of framing it as a representative action, the claimant pursued it as an individual and calculated damages.
This thin slither of hope didn’t go far in appeasing Lloyd, who said: “We are bitterly disappointed that the Supreme Court has failed to do enough to protect the public from Google and other Big Tech firms who break the law.”
Google said: “This claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and that we addressed at the time. People want to know that they are safe and secure online, which is why for years we’ve focused on building products and infrastructure that respect and protect people’s privacy.”