Tech Advice2nd April 2015

Google loses court battle for spying on Apple users

Google invaded Safari users' privacy in 2011 - Court has decided British people are allowed to sue them.

by SL First Tech Team

If you were browsing the web using Safari between 2011 and 2012, this could be good news for you. A few days ago, Google lost their Court battle in the UK for breaching Safari users' privacy; so if you were browsing with an Apple device at that time there’s a chance you could claim some compensation from them. Not a lot, some people are suggesting about £500, but I know I'll be trying to claim for them stealing my personal information.

 The whole thing started back in 2011, when Apple decided to change Safari’s default privacy settings to disallow cookies to be set by third party websites. For those of you that aren’t aware – ‘cookies’ are small text files that store settings and information relating to how you interact with websites. So, when you go back to an online shop and it says, “Hello Dave”, at the top of the page – that’s because your name will have been saved in a cookie. Cookies are also used to ‘track’ users to see what pages you’re looking at online, so that they can show you more targeted adverts in the future; e.g. you’ve looked at a lot of baby clothes today, so they will show adverts for baby toys and nappies.

When Safari changed the settings of their web browser, it meant that Google could no longer easily set their tracking cookies for their targeted advertising. Google didn’t like this and created a sneaky way to submit information without the users’ knowledge, meaning they could continue to track people’s browsing habits.

Google were taken to court back in December 2013 to look at this issue, but Google insisted that they were an American company and, therefore, anyone wishing to sue them over this would have to go to an American court. However, the High Court decided that this was nonsense, because Google has a UK headquarters, UK staff and makes a lot of money here.

Google pushed to take the case to the Court of Appeal to try and block British people from suing them over the issue, but last week the Court decided that it will allow British citizens to bring a case against Google because of the breach of privacy. In America, it has already had cases brought against it and paid out a total of $39.5 million (£26.7m) in settlements across the states to date.

A support group was setup on Facebook called, ‘Safari Users Against Google's Secret Tracking’ and there is also a website following the legal battle which is being handled by the firm Olswang LLP.

What now?!

The court has decided British people are allowed to sue Google for compensation for their breach of their privacy, but on an individual claim basis, that process is obviously very expensive – Google have said their legal fees are £1.2 million. However, the group is hoping that they can get together a list of many people affected by this issue and take the whole collection to the court as a group action. They will have a website set up for people to register their interest in suing Google as a collective. The website isn’t quite ready just yet, but it will be available soon at

 We know that a huge portion of the Deaf community owns Apple devices – iPads, iPhones, iMacs, Macbooks, and iPod Touches; they’ve all been snapped up by Deaf and Hard of Hearing people because of features like Facetime allowing people to easily use sign language or lip-read friends and family. We can assume from this that a very large proportion of the Deaf community was in fact victim of Google’s shady practices back in 2011, and are able to now take Google to court individually or as a group.

There is a website that has been setup by Alexander Hanff with information and updates on the progress of the case. He has a page where you can check whether you are eligible to join the case – by asking whether you owned certain devices at the time when Google was snooping. To check whether you can join the case in seeking compensation and to send off your details to them, you should check out

As and when we hear more, we will keep you updated. For now, as we were all Apple users at the relevant time, we have checked our eligibility and will be joining the joint action as soon as it gets under way.

Article by SL First Tech Team

posted in Technology / Tech Advice

2nd April 2015