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Thanks to a ruling by an appeals court, Safari users in the UK can sue Google over its alleged privacy violations. The claim is that Google bypassed user settings to save a tracking cookie, which overrode the users’ preference to not have their activity tracked. There are potentially millions of British citizens who can now bring a case against Google over this matter.

The cookie tracked data on users’ surfing habits, social class, race, and ethnicity without the users’ knowledge. This secret tracking of data occurred over a period of nine months, from summer 2011 to spring 2012. This was possible due to an exploit specifically found in Safari but not in other browsers.

Google stated that it was “disappointed with the court’s decision.” Google claimed to be unaware that it was tracking Safari users during that time. It argues that there is no grounds for a lawsuit over this matter, because the users had not suffered any financial harm by having their activity tracked.

The court saw things differently. It ruled that this was a breach of users’ civil rights, if the claims were true, and there were grounds to bring a lawsuit against Google over this matter. In the court’s ruling, it stated,

“These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial. They concern what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature… about and associated with the claimants’ internet use, and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months. The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused.”

In the US, Google has already paid $40 million over this incident, where it was fined by the FTC and regulators from 38 states. Now citizens of the UK will finally have their own chance to hold Google accountable for this incident.

Did the court make the right decision on this matter, or is Google in the right? Leave your comments below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.