Google appeal trial over UK legal action begins

Google: Appeal trial begins. Picture: Getty

Google: Appeal trial begins. Picture: Getty

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AN appeal which will decide whether British consumers have any right to hold Google to account in this country has begun.

The internet giant is challenging a decision by a High Court judge in January that the UK courts were the “appropriate jurisdiction” to try claims brought by a group known as Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking,

The group, which includes editor and publisher Judith Vidal-Hall, and Robert Hann and Marc Bradshaw, who are both IT security company directors, have claimed that Google bypassed security settings in order to track their online browsing and to target them with personalised advertisements.

They say Google’s “clandestine” tracking and collation of internet usage between summer 2011 and spring 2012 has led to distress and embarrassment among UK users.

Google says that dissatisfied users of the Apple Safari internet browser should have launched their claims for misuse of private information in the United States, where Google is based.

Today, lawyers for Google told the Court of Appeal that Mr Justice Tugendhat in the High Court impermissibly failed to apply binding legal authority on two issues of law which were of general importance in the field of privacy and consequently erred in declaring that the court had jurisdiction.

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They also say that he got it wrong in several respects in his assessment of whether there were serious issues to be tried.

“In the result, the judge wrongly dismissed the appellant’s application to set aside service of proceedings out of the jurisdiction, and his ruling should be reversed,” Antony White QC told the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Lord Justice McFarlane and Lady Justice Sharp.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, for the group, said that the judge was right to hold that misuse of private information was a tort - a civil wrong - for the purposes of the rules governing service out of the jurisdiction and that the case raised important issues concerning the gathering of information by an international internet company.

The complex appeal, in which the Information Commissioner has intervened, is expected to continue into tomorrow when the judges are likely to reserve their ruling to a date in the New Year.

After January’s ruling a Google spokeswoman said: “A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety three months ago in the US. We still don’t think that this case meets the standards required in the UK for it to go to trial.”

But Dan Tench, a partner at law firm Olswang, which represents the group, said: “The Court of Appeal hearing will decide whether British consumers actually have any right to hold Google to account in this country.

“This is the appropriate forum for this case - here in England where the consumers used the internet and where they have a right to privacy.”

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