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A bid by a British collective to sue Google over what it claimed was the company's tracking of 4.4 million iPhone users between August 2011 and February 2012 has been blocked by the UK High Court.

The Google You Owe US campaign, led by Richard Lloyd, a former director of the consumer group Which?, had sought damages of as much as £3.2 billion (US$4.3 billion) from Google for bypassing default privacy settings on the Safari browser on iPhones.

According to the campaign, Google had made huge amounts of money from selling targeted advertising, with US$80 billion earned from advertising in 2016.

The campaign's lawyers said race, physical and mental heath, political leanings, sexuality, social class, financial, shopping habits and location data were among the details collected by the search engine.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Warby said that under the Data Protection Act, there was no way for Lloyd to seek compensation over his claims.

He said that there were two questions to be decided: whether the pleaded facts disclosed any basis for claiming compensation under the DPA and, if so, whether the Court should permit the claim to continue as a representative action.

Mr Justice Warby said the facts outlined by Lloyd's lawyers did not support the claim that either he or any of the others cited in the suit had suffered damage as defined in the Act.

This meant that the others cited in the claim did not have the same interest in the case as Lloyd, Mr Justice Warby said, adding that he was thus not permitting the action to continue.

Since the claim had no real chance of success, he said he was refusing permission to serve proceedings on Google outside its jurisdiction in the US.

The Google You Owe Us group said it would appeal the judgment. In a statement, it said: "Today’s judgment found that Google’s actions were arguably 'wrongful, and a breach of duty'. However, the judge took the view that because each class member may not have been affected in precisely the same way the case could not proceed.

"Mr Justice Warby, also suggested that none of those affected in the data breach had shown 'any interest in the case'. In fact, 20,000 people had signed up to the Google You Owe Us website – with 10,000 in the first week alone."

Thanks to The Register for the link to the judgment.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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