Masterclassing

Supreme Court throws out iPhone tracking class action case against Google

David Murphy

The UK's Supreme Court has rejected a claim seeking billions of pounds in damages from Google over its alleged illegal tracking of millions of iPhones, the BBC reports.

The claim was rejected on the grounds that the claimant – Richard Lloyd, former director of consumer rights group Which? – had failed to prove damage had been caused to individuals by the data collection. However, the judge presiding over the case, Lord Leggatt, did rule out the possibility of future mass-action lawsuits if damages could be calculated.

In his judgement, Lore Leggatt said: "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. Without proof of these matters, a claim for damages cannot succeed."

Significantly though, he said that the case had a "real chance of success" if pursued by the claimant as an individual, instead of as a mass action.

The case alleged that between 2011 and 2012, Google cookies collected data on health, race, ethnicity, sexuality and finance through Apple's Safari web browser, even when users had chosen a ‘do not track’ privacy setting. Mr. Lloyd was seeking compensation for 4.4m people.  

He told the BBC: "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. Although the court once again recognised that our action is the only practical way that millions of British people can get access to fair redress, they've slammed the door shut on this case by ruling that everyone affected must go to court individually."

He also called on the government to step in to make it easier for groups of consumers to take action over data breaches.