Google avoids £3.3bn payout thanks to High Court blocking lawsuit

Google has narrowly avoided paying out £3.3bn in compensation to iPhone users thanks to a High Court ruling.

Google avoids £3.3bn payout thanks to High Court blocking lawsuit

A claim was made to the High Court by former Which? consumer group director Richard Lloyd. He alleged that Google violated section 4 of the Data Protection Act 1998 by unlawfully gathering personal data from iPhones between 2011 and 2012. 

However, on Monday Mr Justice Warby said he would not allow the claims to proceed, based on the grounds that the facts alleged in the claim could not be supported. Lloyd, nor any other iPhone user had suffered “damage” from Google’s actions, it would also be impossible to accurately calculate the number of iPhone users who may have been affected.

“The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us,” said a Google spokesperson in response to the ruling. “This claim is without merit, and we’re pleased the Court has dismissed it”. 

The legal action came as a the result of Google’s “Safari workaround”, a method that tricked Apple’s Safari web browser on iPhones into releasing the personal data of Google website users. Between June 2011 and February 2012, Google obtained millions of customers’ data this way, including race, health records, sexuality, and location data.

This data was used by Google to create targeted advertising, which can identify users based on their traits in order to deliver adverts that are relevant to them.

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Google has been the subject of a series of legal actions this year, from a massive £3.8bn antitrust fine from the EU to an impending lawsuit for tracking users’ location without permission. This is the latest in a long line of lawsuits and fines for companies who don’t protect user data in a sufficient way.

Since this breach of trust happened six years ago, it isn’t affected by the recent introduction of GDPR compliance rules. If prosecutors could prove that it continued, however, Google would be in for a much greater fine, of up to 4% of the company’s global annual turnover.

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