The Court of Appeal in London has given the go-ahead for mass action against Google over claims it illegally accessed the data of over 4 million iPhone users, overturning an earlier high court ruling against redress.
In their legal action, claimants accused Google of accessing internet browsing data on Apple iPhones by bypassing Safari’s privacy settings between June 2011 and February 2012.
Mishcon de Reya, the legal firm acting for one of the representative claimants, described the appeals court move as “groundbreaking” as it “confirms a number of important legal principles under Data Protection law,” and could even mark the beginning of a new procedural framework “for the conduct of mass data breach claims.”
Their client Richard Lloyd hailed the decision for sending “a very clear message to Google and other large tech companies: you are not above the law.”
Responding to the court ruling, Google said it believes the whole case should be dismissed. “This case relates to events that took place nearly a decade ago and that we addressed at the time,” a spokeswoman told Reuters. “We believe it has no merit and should be dismissed.”
Google is no stranger to concerns surrounding mass breaches of data privacy. Earlier this year, the company was fined €50 million by France’s data watchdog for failing to provide transparency and easily accessible information about its data consent policies which made it hard for users to manage their preferences about how their personal data is used.
Just last month, Google agreed to almost €1 billion to settle a French fiscal fraud probe which suspected the company, which has its European headquarters in Ireland, of failing to pay its dues in France by avoiding declaring some of its activities there.
Also in September, the company and its video streaming service, YouTube, were ordered to pay a $170 million settlement on allegations by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and New York’s attorney general that YouTube generated millions in revenue by illegally collecting the personal information of child users without first seeking their parents’ consent.
“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law.”