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back to article Screw you, Brits, says Google: We are ABOVE UK privacy law

Google is disputing a lawsuit brought by UK-based Apple users whose browser habits were slurped – without permission – by the ad giant. Mountain View claims that Britain's data protection laws do not apply to it as British courts have "no jurisdiction" over the company. Owners of Apple devices who used Cupertino's Safari browser …

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Anonymous Coward

Nuts

My consciousness seems to exist in my head so if my foot decides to kick Mr. Google in the nuts it has nothing to do with me, your Honour.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nuts

Methinks Mr Google just kicked himself in the nuts. Can't see arrogant contemptuous crap like that going down terribly well with the court.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nuts

"Google declined to be served the lawsuit in the UK"

Declined to be served? How exactly does that work?

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Re: Nuts

Basically they refused to accept the paperwork when someone tried to give it to them. Of course this, and their public statements, is likely to go down really well with the UK courts!

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Re: Nuts

Not sure how it works over there, but here in the US the authority to accept court filings only exists with a few (sometimes one) company officers and no one else is allowed to take them unless it is a search & seizure type thing. If a general staffer takes the papers it doesn't count, so the company makes it really hard to find the person to serve.

They hire private investigators and deploy armies of process servers to locate & surprise the individual. In some cases that individuals security team has prevented the process server from reaching their target. It's all a big stupid game.

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Re: Nuts

I'm not sure how they managed that. I suspect that the US lawyers may be involved and not understand UK law.

In the US a summons has to be handed to someone and proof that you received it etc. You have to sign for things and the like.

In the UK it can be sent by first class post or just left at the companies registered address. You can't refuse it in UK law, for just this reason. You can't avoid legal action in the UK by just avoiding the paperwork.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nuts

"Nuts" is right.

Simple message to Google: don't want to abide by UK (or any other nation's) law? Cool. No problem. We'll ban you. You didn't think we'd only use that kiddie porn filtering for child protection, did you? Google search? No problem. Google ads and any other service? Ah. Well, that resolves as well as the Pirate Bay now.

Oh, and you being investigated in 27+ EU countries? Guess who is no longer taking your side?

Have a nice year, Google, you really have no idea what kind of shit you just started.

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Re: Nuts

And it is the court that sends the summons, not the claimant.

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WTF?

Re: Nuts

"Google declined to be served the lawsuit in the UK"

Mr. Google declined to be kicked in the nuts...

... hold on, that's not how it works, is it?? WTF how can they 'decline' to be served the lawsuit? If they were served, they either answer or else they are basically ignoring the summons, or else there's a different law for them than for anyone else??

Any expert on UK summons who can enlighten me?

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Meh

Re: Nuts

"They hire private investigators and deploy armies of process servers to locate & surprise the individual. In some cases that individuals security team has prevented the process server from reaching their target. It's all a big stupid game."

So time to Google creepy Eric's home address?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nuts

""Google declined to be served the lawsuit in the UK, Mr. Google declined to be kicked in the nuts." and is now sharing Mr Assange's sofa?

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FAIL

Re: Nuts

All the people here hating on Google for not believing they should be sued in a foreign country should bear their opinion in mind when they get a summons to appear before the Islamic Revolutionary Court (Iran) for something they post here.

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Re: Nuts

"All the people here hating on Google for not believing they should be sued in a foreign country should bear their opinion in mind when they get a summons to appear before the Islamic Revolutionary Court (Iran) for something they post here."

1: I don't have an office in Iran

2: Any UK company which has an office in the USA is subject to USA laws - particularly the PATRIOT act.

3: The UK office is subject to UK law and others have aleready explained that the company does not have the legal ability to decline being served with a summons.

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Re: Nuts

Actually PJ over at Groklaw has an interesting take on the story in her News Picks feed:

" [PJ: No. It's not chutzpah. It's quite normal to make that argument in international cases. Can Google be sued in Iran under Iranian law? How about North Korea? Let's make the question a little closer to home. Let's say you are being sued by someone in Iran. You don't live in Iran. You live in the US. Now how do you feel? Do you wish to be under the laws of every disparate nation in the world? As this class on jurisdiction points out, in Saudi Arabia there is a death penalty for adultery. Do you want to be liable under that law if you are a US citizen living in the US? Can Saudi Arabia come and stone you? How would the internet work if it was the law that companies are liable under each and every country's laws, regardless of the obvious contradictions, and could enforce its rulings everywhere in the world? Would anyone set up an online business in such a situation? I wouldn't. How about China? Shall we accept limitations that it imposes on its citizens as limitations on US citizens also?

I know it's popular to attack Google, but really it's quite normal to be sued where you are in business. Terms of use, which users accept, usually, typically tell you where you can sue. There are some exceptions, such as in cases of libel, where one can argue that you want it tried where the harm was done to the plaintiff, but even then, it's quite typical to see jurisdictional assertions at least raised. It's not only not chutzpah to do that, it'd be malpractice not to. The first time a country asserted jurisdiction over the Internet, Australia, it was big news. That's how unusual it was to even try to assert jurisdiction over a US company under another country's laws. Do you want to accept Germany's laws about not speaking about Hitler favorably? Does Germany get to annul America's First Amendment in the US? Do you see the complexity that ensues if a company can be sued anywhere and everywhere? If a country can claim jurisdiction over another country's territory? It is *normal* to sue where a company is headquartered. Google may or may not succeed, but it's certainly not chutzpah to argue that it should be sued where it is located.]"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nuts

Appart from it is not about a US company being sued in the UK. It is a US company with a UK office and a UK operation being sued in the UK. If I opened a .de website I would expect anything posted on it to respect German law. If I went on holiday I would expect to be subject to the country's law. What Google seem to be doing is the same as US citizens sometimes do, and think the constitution follows them.

Please do explain your argument to BP as the US government seem to have no problem with suing them in the US. It may be normal to try this but it dose not make it correct. The biggest problem is that they are trying to use US law in the UK by "refusing" a summons.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nuts

I believe that you're wrong, sir, claiming, that:

"Terms of use, which users accept, usually, typically tell you where you can sue.

I believe, and I'm pretty sure I'm right in most cases, that it's not the T&C that tell you where you can sue, but the law(s) of a country where you operate OR in which you provide service tell you you where you can sue. And these laws and regulations, at a few EU states (and I'm pretty sure everywhere else), are absolutely clear: the local legal system applies. Regardless of what you put in the T&Cs, because they are subject to local laws and regulations, do not stand above them.

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PJI
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Unhappy

Re: Nuts

Seems as if PJ is a classic, ignorant American. So Americans must go to Chinese of Indonesian courts to complain about products bought in USA but made in those countries? Even an American can understand the concept of being subject to the laws where it carries on business, surely. The software was produced in USA SO DOMESTIC LAW IS INAPPLICABLE IN THE COUNTRY OF USE? Give me strength. I suspect that even USA states take a dim view of businesses or people from other USA states trying that principle. I believe the USA is rather keen on shutting down foreign Internet sites that it feels are against its interests, whether morally or otherwise, despite them having far less physical presence in the USA than Google does in London.

Will the British government at last ditch its addiction to American advisors and ideas and instead work with the rest of the EU to put these foreign entities in their place and stop their tax and any other privileges? Whether Google. Amazon, Kraft or the oil firms encouraged to make lots of US money from British N. Sea oil. Norway handled that last a lot better. Almost all the rest of N. Europe handle the rest better.

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Re: Nuts

@AC 12:54

"Declined to be served? How exactly does that work?"

Apparently quite well. At least as a delaying tactic.

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Re: Nuts

What would really scare Google is if IRELAND were to threaten action. Ireland is a key component in Google's (and many others') tax-minimisation strategy so Ireland (and perhaps Holland as well) have the most power here I would think.

But then, the whole 'problem' of this tax avoidance strategy is party due to Ireland's quite lenient corporate tax laws which in effect reduce the potential tax income of every other country just so Ireland can keep a little bit more for itself. So, I guess that given that the Irish Government is happy to screw over other countries in return for a bit of extra tax revenue, it seems unlikely anything would change now . . .

(Yes, I know it;s not that simple but Ireland could abolish the 'double Irish' strategy if it wanted and it's evident it does not want that because it would lose tax revenue.)

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Re: Nuts

How about a block on all google websites in the EU until its all sorted out?

That would make them sit up and take note more than a fine...no play = no play in the EU

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Re: Nuts

Actually no can refuse to accept a summons. Does not invalidate it however, and provided that there is proof that you refused to accept it then the courts are free to draw their own conclusions.

A major tactical and strategic mistake by Google's legal eagles.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nuts

Ireland does not have lax tax laws. Ireland, as a sovereign country set its own more severe, superior, but different tax laws to many other countries.

Under Irish law, a company is where its management team is. This is an anti-avoidance measure which means you can't set up a company in Ireland, and run it from Ireland, and register and pay taxes in Andorra. It keeps Irish companies resident here for tax purposes.

The "problem" for other countries is that they don't have this anti-avoidance measure. They allow under their laws for local companies to be registered elsewhere. This means that under Irish law a company managed from the US is a US company, while under US law a company registered in Ireland is an Irish Company.

This incompatibility does not mean lax Irish Tax laws, but rather lax tax laws in countries who's tax residency laws are similar to those in the US.

the an

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Meh

Re: Nuts

"Appart from it is not about a US company being sued in the UK. It is a US company with a UK office and a UK operation being sued in the UK. If I opened a .de website I would expect anything posted on it to respect German law. If I went on holiday I would expect to be subject to the country's law. What Google seem to be doing is the same as US citizens sometimes do, and think the constitution follows them."

But it's those "differences of legal opinion" that make lawyers so very rich.

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Re: Nuts

Is not it relevant that the google.co.uk servers from which the information was requested (i.e search results) are based in the US?

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Re: Nuts

As far as I can find, there IS no UK office.

The closest one is in Ireland - which is not in the UK.

Now, after the London office opens there might be (well, have been, as I would guess it won't open either).

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Your example just barely misses the reaon why

"So Americans must go to Chinese of Indonesian courts to complain about products bought in USA but made in those countries?"

Actually, yes they would have to. The company that is in the US that bought them from the Chinese is the only one they can sue.

Had they bought them from the Chinese directly, then they would have to go there to sue.

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Facepalm

Re: Nuts

Re Groklaw argument -

Nobody in the UK is expecting to sue a US company under UK law. Google UK is a UK company and can be sued under UK law, and the fact that it is a subsidiary to Google US is of no relevance.

Google (and Multinationals in general) seems to find it very convenient that Google UK is different from Google US, Google Bermuda etc, when this allows it to reduce it's tax liability, but once it's detecting an incoming lawsuit, suddenly there is only one Google in the US and all the other Google companies are not independent entities?

Pull the other one

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Devil

Re: Nuts

"As far as I can find, there IS no UK office.

The closest one is in Ireland - which is not in the UK.

Now, after the London office opens there might be (well, have been, as I would guess it won't open either)."

It's just off St Giles High St. You can see the Google logo behind reception. Google Maps even lists it, at 51.516067,-0.127234

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Re: Nuts

You can't have looked very hard then. Google has two large offices in London - one in Victoria, the other in Soho. They are merging the two into the new office in Kings Cross when it opens next year.

The registered office of Google UK Ltd - a company incorporated under UK law and therefore fully subject to UK courts is in Belgravia.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nuts

The entire end of High Holborn (WC1) opposite St Giles Church is Google's offices.

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Unhappy

Re: Nuts

Starbucks

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FAIL

Re: Nuts

You don't ban Google. Google bans you, then your internet traffic goes through the floor.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nuts

Actually PJ over at Groklaw has an interesting take on the story in her News Picks feed:

" [PJ: No. It's not chutzpah. It's quite normal to make that argument in international cases. Can Google be sued in Iran under Iranian law? How about North Korea? Let's make the question a little closer to home. Let's say you are being sued by someone in Iran. You don't live in Iran. You live in the US. Now how do you feel? Do you wish to be under the laws of every disparate nation in the world?

Two points:

1 - Google has a UK sales office, and has just announced plans to build something even bigger. Which means they are IN the UK.

2 - PJ has an almost extreme pro-Google bias, and has had so for years. Sad but true.

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Re: Nuts

Hmmm, to use the sample of adultery in Saudi Arabia, if someone were committing adultery whilst in Saudi Arabia, then the laws of Saudi Arabia (in my opinion) should apply. Regardless of whether their home is in the US, and they are a US citizen.

To claim your home is in another country should not make you exempt from the country where you do business's laws, particularly the deliberate invasion of privacy and a breach that has already been tried and convicted for in the US.

By operating a .co.uk domain, Google are clearly operating in the UK. .co.uk domain names are only issued by Nominet, a UK organisation, not by ICANN, or any other such international, or US organisation. By setting up and operating a UK presence, they should abide by UK laws in addition to those of any other country that they are also operating.

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Re: Nuts

I thought Google had a whole campus in Reading?

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Re: Nuts

Well, for one it wasn't MY argument, it was PJ's. For another, when the story first broke it wasn't clear what exactly the lawsuit was about. Without that context it was hard to tell if she was right or not.

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Thumb Up

Re: Nuts

Well researched! http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/thumb_up_32.png

Google UK Ltd

Belgrave House

76 Buckingham Palace Road

London SW1W 9TQ

Google UK Ltd

1-13 St Giles High Street

London WC2H 8AG

Google UK Ltd

Lloyd House

20 Lloyd Street

Manchester

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Re: Nuts

@AC - 6:42

> "Under Irish law, a company is where its management team is. This is an anti-avoidance measure which means you can't set up a company in Ireland, and run it from Ireland, and register and pay taxes in Andorra. It keeps Irish companies resident here for tax purposes."

Not quite.

What you say is true, but only for certain values of 'Irish companies'.

What happened was that a few decades ago, British and Irish tax law allowed for locally incorporated companies to be tax resident wherever their 'effective management' was. In other words, an English or Irish company could be tax-resident in a foreign country. About 20 years ago, the UK abolished this to keep local profits at home, forcing companies incorporated in the UK to also be tax-resident in the UK. Ireland followed suit but made a crucial exemption for foreign-owned companies.

That is the key piece of the puzzle as it allows a foreign company (like Google, Apple, etc...) to set up an Irish company that is tax-resident in some offshore tax haven like Bermuda.

Now, to be able to do that, the foreign company (e.g. Google) must have an actual presence in Ireland. This is why the arrangement is called the 'Double Irish' - it requires TWO Irish companies.

There are many complications in this system and it does indeed require the use of a particular piece of US tax law that allows this to be packaged up neatly but the point is that it is the legislation in Ireland that supercharges this, resulting in truly miniscule amounts of tax being paid.

Skipping steps and simplifying a lot, the relevant US code allows two companies to essentially be considered as just one company - the parent company - under certain circumstances.

This, in itself is not helpful. After all, if there were two Irish companies, both tax-resident in Ireland then who cares if one is a subsidiary of the other and charging royalties? In the end, an Irish company is earning profits and subject to relevant tax. The loophole only reaches its potential when coupled with the Irish loophole that allows a foreign-owned corporation to setup an Irish company that is tax resident elsewhere. THAT arrangement is why there is value at all in the US ability to disregard the Ireland-based Irish company in favour of considering only the Bermuda-based Irish 'parent' company.

> "The "problem" for other countries is that they don't have this anti-avoidance measure. They allow under their laws for local companies to be registered elsewhere."

That's also not correct.

Google US cannot be registered in Ireland. It doesn't work that way. However, Google can create a subsidiary company called Google Ireland and incorporate that in Ireland. That kind of subsidiary law is the same in almost all countries because subsidiaries, by definition, are legally separate entities. Without that, multinational business pretty much couldn't function.

Remember that subsidiaries don't have to have anything to do with the parent company's business. For example, I could be an ISP in the UK and then set up a subsidiary company in the US that owned a chain of florists. That US florist chain would be governed by US tax laws but any profits it returned to my parent company in the UK would be taxed in the UK. That's the normal state of things and that has nothing specifically to do with the Irish-based tax avoidance strategy.

Both the US and Ireland have anti-avoidance measures that prevent locally-incorporated companies being tax-resident in foreign jurisdictions (almost always tax havens). The difference, as explained above is that Ireland grants an exemption to this when the locally-incorporated company is owned by a foreign corporation.

To make the difference clear:

* If an Irish company creates a subsidiary in the US, US tax laws will force it to be tax-resident in the US and subject to US tax at ~35%.

* If a US company creates a subsidiary in Ireland, Irish tax law allows that subsidiary to be tax-resident in Bermuda and so subject the Bermuda's tax laws and subsequently taxed at 0%.

Hope that makes the Irish loophole clear.

If the problem was simply the US then there would be nothing special about Ireland and you would have all kinds of great names like the "back-to-back British", the "Indian iteration" or the "duplicate Danish"

-----------------------

Please note, I am not passing judgment such tax avoidance strategies. Opinions vary as to if this is a good or bad thing with some claiming that these strategies, which allow Google to pay less tax, also allow them to invest that money back into the economy, building data centres and headquarters and employing thousands of staff, construction workers, contractors, etc...

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Wow just wow, they are obviously in the wrong here but you got to admire there balls.

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Anonymous Coward

That's not balls, that is blatantly ignorant stupidity. It's not exactly the first time Google has tried to pretend that only US law matters, but this only has one translation in court: arrogance. And that is about the worst impression to make on a judge in a different legal judiciary from where you hail.

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WTF?

Weird

How can they even think that this will fly? It seems crazy.

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Do no evil

If we do it it's not evil. Just business

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Do No Evil

Closer examination reveals that the full corporate motto of Google is actually "Do No Evil Or We Will Know All About It."

Who's ever going to sue Google in future when they have decades of search history dirt on you? They know every site and image you viewed? They know where you live and where your loved ones are, and what you've all been up to? They're listening to every word you say, 24/7?

Just "Do No Evil". Like We Told You From The Start.

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Re: Do No Evil

"Who's ever going to sue Google in future"

You appear to have spelt "use" incorrectly. ;)

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Re: Do No Evil @VinceH

I know that's a joke, but unfortunately the answer to that is everyone.

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I would have thought a just approach here would be "fine, but in that case, you can't use our courts to sue anybody", enabling anybody outside of US jurisdiction to do whatever they like to Google with no fear of rescourse.

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So Google isn't subject to British laws, but BP (and Deepwater Horizon) is subject to American laws?

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Holmes

You got it...

Hackers, bankers etc. in fact virtually anyone who carries out actions which are legal here in the UK can still be handed over in chains to Uncle Sam so they can be incarcerated for the rest of their lives - if St. Barack deems it should be so.

Who said that the US of A no longer has arrogance and a belief in their superiority (unjustified - very unjustified) as national characteristics>

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That's correct -- everyone in the World is subject to American Laws, and the UK Authorities are happy to oblige with enforcement.

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