Google may very well be everywhere. According to Alexa.com, Google.com is the most visited website on the Internet worldwide, with 69.8 percent of all visitors coming from outside the United States. 2.9 percent of Google.com’s visitors come from the U.K., while an even higher percentage of people visit Google.co.uk.
With all of that traffic, one would expect Google to be hit with privacy lawsuits similar to those the company has faced in the U.S., abroad. But the tech giant rejects these claims, saying that a group of Internet users does not have jurisdiction to bring a breach of privacy suit in the U.K.
On Dec. 16, Google’s lawyers told a London court that a breach of privacy suit brought by three Internet users should be thrown out because the claimants did not hold proper grounds for a suit. According to Bloomberg, the company asked the judge to throw out the suit and issue an order “declaring that the court has no jurisdiction to try the claims.”
The suit currently in U.K. court is very similar to a lawsuit brought against Google in the U.S. in October 2013. In both suits, groups of Internet users claim that Google overrode settings for other web browsers, most notably Apple’s Safari, in order to track information about customers for targeted advertising. Using cookies, the U.K. suit says, Google tracked a user’s race, sexuality, political beliefs, and financial situation among other variables.
Lawyers for the claimants wrote in court documents that Google has “an institutionalized disregard for both the privacy of billions of individual users and for the regulatory regimes of the countries in which it operates” and that its actions “are likely to have affected millions of users in the U.K. and around the world.”
In response to Google’s claim that those bringing the suit do not hold jurisdiction, one of the claimants, editor Judith Vidal-Hall, said, “It is ludicrous for it to claim that, despite all of this very commercial activity, it won’t answer to our courts.”
However, if U.K. courts follow the U.S. example, Google may not need to worry at all. A U.S. district court threw out the breach of privacy suit against Google in that similar case, saying that the plaintiffs could not adequately show they had been damaged by Google’s targeted advertising.
Referring to that case, Google told Bloomberg in a statement, “A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety two months ago in the U.S. We’re asking the court to re-examine whether this case meets the standards required in the U.K. for a case like this to go to trial.”
Google has been in legal news often recently, as found in these InsideCounsel articles: