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Google refuses to answer to British court over privacy lawsuit

Search giant insists lawsuit concerning UK internet users’ privacy should be brought in California where it is based

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 10:57am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 10:57am

Google has been called “arrogant and immoral” for arguing that a privacy claim brought by internet users in the UK should not be heard by the British legal system.

The search giant will tell the high court on Monday that it should throw out claims that it secretly tracked the browsing habits of millions of iPhone users.

In the first group claim brought against Google in the UK, the internet firm has insisted that the lawsuit must be brought in California, where it is based, instead of a British courtroom.

Hundreds of internet users are preparing to sue Google if the test case gets the green light.

Google is accused by the claimants of secretly monitoring their behaviour by circumventing security settings on the iPhone, iPad and desktop versions of the Safari web browser.

Google must be held to account here, even though it would prefer to ignore England
Dan Tench, solicitor from the law firm Olswang

Judith Vidal-Hall, one of the claimants suing Google, said: “Google is very much here in the UK. It has a UK specific site. It has staff here. It sells adverts here. It makes money here. It is ludicrous for it to claim that, despite all of this very commercial activity, it won’t answer to our courts.

“If consumers are based in the UK and English laws are abused, the perpetrator must be held to account here, not in a jurisdiction that might suit them better. Google’s approach that British consumers should travel all the way to California to seek redress for its wrongdoings is arrogant, immoral and a disgrace.”

Google will argue on Monday that the case does not meet the standard required to be heard at the high court in London. Lawyers for the search firm are expected to tell the judge that a similar privacy claim was recently struck out in the US and that no European regulators are currently investigating this issue.

But lawyers for the claimants will argue that Google should answer to the British legal system for allegedly breaching the privacy of internet users on UK soil.

“British users have a right to privacy protected by English and European laws,” said Dan Tench, a solicitor from the law firm Olswang, which represents the claimants.

“Google may weave complex legal arguments about why the case should not be heard here, but they have a legal and moral duty to users on this side of the Atlantic not to abuse their wishes. Google must be held to account here, even though it would prefer to ignore England.”

A Google spokesman said: “A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety two months ago in the US. We’re asking the court to re-examine whether this case meets the standards required in the UK for a case like this to go to trial.”

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