back to article High Court derails Google defence in Safari browser stalker cookie brouhaha

The High Court in London, England, today rejected Google's claim that the company is not subject to UK data protection laws. The advertising giant – sued by Brits who allege the company invaded their privacy – tried to argue that Blighty's courts have "no jurisdiction" over it. But the High Court disagreed, and now Google will …

COMMENTS

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google would argue all laws don't apply to them. Tax laws and now data protection.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Do no evil" *

      *and by 'evil' we mean 'laws'

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      "because the courts in this country have "no jurisdiction" over the company"

      Don't they sell stuff here? Not to mention have a physical presence?

      How on earth they think that can fly?!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't be evil!

        It's "Don't be evil". Not "Do no evil". Nothing to do with monkeys!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Don't be evil!

          "is evil just something you are or something you do?" - Morrissey

        2. Ralph B

          Re: Don't be evil!

          Like I said, "Don't Be Evil" is a meant as a warning to us, not a motto for them.

        3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          So I went to these monkeys....

          I got some monkeys to type out the words: "Do No Evil".

          They sent me "Pay no taxes" in reply.

          Which I thought was quick but.... errmmm...

      2. Tim 54

        no "sales"

        Of course they have no sales here - it's all in Ireland, which is why they pay tiny amounts of tax......

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If Google starts to respect privacy again and participates in this country in a responsible way, our campaign will be unnecessary. Until then, our fight continues – in the English courts, in the media, in Parliament and online. Our message to Google is clear: stop abusing your users.

    Just to clarify this, this is a statement made by a man who brought an Apple device? Really? A man who joined a walled garden, and willingly handed over all his personal information to Apple, has some grounds to complain about companies not respecting personal privacy?

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Whataboutery

      The fact you choose to use Apple services doesn't mean Google can ignore your privacy settings. Why would you think those two things are linked?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whataboutery

        The fact you choose to use Apple services doesn't mean Google can ignore your privacy settings. Why would you think those two things are linked?

        I never said it did, I just marvelled at the irony of an Apple device user complaining about someone invading his privacy.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Sabrioni

        The mistake the chap made was slagging off either Google or Android. Doing so is a complete no-no. Google fanbois are particularly sensitive and delicate flowers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Sabrioni

          "The mistake the chap made was slagging off either Google or Android. Doing so is a complete no-no. Google fanbois are particularly sensitive and delicate flowers."

          Clearly not as sensitive than fanbois. Don't bite.

      3. zb

        Re: Whataboutery

        Nooo, Google can ignore anything because they are Google. They don't need any reasons other than that, by definition, anything they do is not evil.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Confused

      I am confused, what personal data do you give to Apple (or any other manufacturer for that matter) when you purchase one of their products.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Confused

        Quite a lot since Apple IDs are practically mandatory on iDevices - online guarantee registration, support, Genius bar, rebates as well as the services on the phone (iTunes, App Store, etc...).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Confused

          Ok as a quick roundup

          They have my..

          1 email address

          2 name

          3 credit card details if I use the apple stores, or I purchased the device from them

          4 real address ( see 3) , until I move

          5 purchasing details if I use apple stores.

          This is no more than amazon or ebay have, and this is a necessary requirement in these times

          and are not really personal.

          Personal is my medical data, my sexual orientation, my drinking/eating/smoking habits, criminal records,

          financial details (outside of credit agency data) and phone number

          Google could summarize far more about me if they could correlate the person to the queries, ever wondered why Google et al are so keen to get those extra details such as alternate email address and mobile or landline phone?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Confused

            You miss the point - you agreed to give this information or it is necessary to service your account - or both. In the Google issue seems they specifically sought to sidestep specific blocks / privacy / security settings to prevent them. It's perhaps more like you closing and locking your front door and them picking the lock to still get in - FOR THEIR PROFIT.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Confused

              "You miss the point - you agreed to give this information or it is necessary to service your account - or both. In the Google issue seems they specifically sought to sidestep specific blocks / privacy / security settings to prevent them. It's perhaps more like you closing and locking your front door and them picking the lock to still get in - FOR THEIR PROFIT."

              You can't shout too loudly that someone else slurps the data you freely give away to others, no can you?

              If you think that you can, you need to look a little more closely at what is actually happening, cause your complaint is spurious.

            2. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Confused

              I didn't really miss the point. I bought the iDevice from a shop, not Apple, and Apple make it very difficult to use their iDevices without giving them a load of data. I don't know about now but at one stage you were obliged to give a credit card number on signing up even though there was no need for Apple to know it. This was when Apple had a problem with security and people with Apple IDs had things billed to their credit cards that they didn't ask for. To get them to forget it I eventually had to change to another country and change back again. I shouldn't have had to do that.

              Apple is not infallable and they are a target, they don't really need my address, credit card number, phone, DOB, or other things sitting there on a server which can be hacked.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Confused

            "Ok as a quick roundup

            They have my..

            1 email address

            2 name

            3 credit card details if I use the apple stores, or I purchased the device from them

            4 real address ( see 3) , until I move

            5 purchasing details if I use apple stores.

            This is no more than amazon or ebay have, and this is a necessary requirement in these times

            and are not really personal.

            Personal is my medical data, my sexual orientation, my drinking/eating/smoking habits, criminal records,

            financial details (outside of credit agency data) and phone number

            Google could summarize far more about me if they could correlate the person to the queries, ever wondered why Google et al are so keen to get those extra details such as alternate email address and mobile or landline phone?"

            And every other piece of information you send using your choice of last decades tech!

            This just digs a deeper hole.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Confused

        "I am confused, what personal data do you give to Apple (or any other manufacturer for that matter) when you purchase one of their products.

        Hardly surprising that you don't actually know!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Confused

          Re: Confused

          "I am confused, what personal data do you give to Apple (or any other manufacturer for that matter) when you purchase one of their products.

          Hardly surprising that you don't actually know!

          Hardly surprising that you failed to understand the responses correctly, and yes I do know what goes on and where.

    3. JimmyPage Silver badge
      FAIL

      @obnoxiousGit - you undermine your own argument

      Just to clarify this, this is a statement made by a man who brought an Apple device? Really? A man who joined a walled garden, and willingly handed over all his personal information to Apple, has some grounds to complain about companies not respecting personal privacy?

      Just because I willingly buy a copy of The Times, doesn't mean it's OK for Murdoch to mug me, steal £1 and force a copy into my hands.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @obnoxiousGit - you undermine your own argument

        Just because I willingly buy a copy of The Times, doesn't mean it's OK for Murdoch to mug me, steal £1 and force a copy into my hands.

        Your analogy is flawed.

        Try "after buying my copy of the Times, I was stood in the news agents browsing through the contents of the Daily Mail, when the newsagent demanded I pay for it", and you'll be closer to what happened here.

      2. Not That Andrew

        Re: @obnoxiousGit - you undermine your own argument

        Just because I willingly buy a copy of The Times, doesn't mean it's OK for Murdoch to mug me, steal £1 and force a copy into my hands.

        Perhaps a better analogy would be the Barklay brothers mugging you, stealing your wallet and leaving a copy of the Torygraph on your unconscious body after you buy the Times.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @obnoxiousGit - you undermine your own argument

        "Just because I willingly buy a copy of The Times, doesn't mean it's OK for Murdoch to mug me, steal £1 and force a copy into my hands."

        No one said otherwise.

        It's just ironic!

  3. BongoJoe

    Perhaps Google would tell us clearly under which juristiction they consider themselves.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      How about

      The mythical island that is located about 50 miles to the west of mountain View?

      or perhaps

      Planet Chocolate Factory.

      Seriously, if google has a legal presence in the UK then yes the court does have jurisdiction.

      so if google plc/ltd is listed in companies house then they should do the decent thing and admit their mistake.

      Will they?

      somehow, I doubt it.

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: Steve Davies 3

        It would appear from your comment that a firm stealing data here is exempt from all laws if they are not based here?

        If they can be sued in USAmerica instead, then it wouldn't be out and out piracy on the high seas -which Britain used to patrol and quash pirates on in the good old days.

        Wouldn't the US be a better place to nail them?

        They would get decent legal facilities and bloody silly payouts. (US) This contrasts sharply with what would happen here. (They could get decent legal facilities and bloody silly payouts. (UK))

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: Steve Davies 3

          My comment was meant as a point against the claim that the UK has no legal jurisdicyion over Google.

          That it actually irrelevant to the bodgy practices they engage in. That is a TOTALLY separate issue.

          If Google had won this claim then they would not be subject to UK Health and Safety law, Employment law and a gazillion and one other laws. Frankly they were stupid to try this on. The implications were huge and the legal system would not let that through.

          This ain't the USA where you can legally sue everyone and everything incluing God and a fly.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      Coat

      The one that the Koch brothers are trying so hard to create for all the "corporations-are-people-my-friends" entities out there.

  4. Anonymous Blowhard

    Check their tax returns!

    From the tax they pay it's obvious that they don't exist in the UK so the law can't apply to them.

    And Apple users pay for the privilege of having their data slurped by Apple; they don't want freeloaders like Google getting it for nothing!

    1. Fink-Nottle

      Re: Check their tax returns!

      > From the tax they pay it's obvious that they don't exist in the UK so the law can't apply to them.

      Bollox. Google admitted to Parliament that it has a legal presence in the UK :

      Google had earlier said that UK customers paid Google in Ireland. "No one in the UK can execute transactions," said Google's head of sales in Northern Europe, Matt Brittin. "No money changes hands," he said, despite the fact that he employed sales staff in Britain.

      1. Not That Andrew

        Re: Check their tax returns!

        Bollox. Google admitted to Parliament that it has a legal presence in the UK

        I suspect Anonymous Blowhard was being sarcastic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Check their tax returns!

          "I suspect Anonymous Blowhard was being sarcastic."

          lots of 'mericans in here this morning?

        2. Fink-Nottle

          Re: Check their tax returns!

          > I suspect Anonymous Blowhard was being sarcastic.

          Too subtle for a simpleton like me :)

          When Google's lawyers advanced a similar argument in the High Court, were they being sarcastic too?

  5. websey

    As far as i am concerned if google dont want to be answerable to the UK Courts then google.co.uk / google.com / google.whatever should be blocked at the ISP level much like thepiratebay etc are.

    You have office buildings, employ people etc in the UK you are a UK practicing entity so you are under the UK jurisdiction

  6. Blue Pumpkin

    According to Companies House ..

    Google UK Limited

    Company Number: 03977902

    Registered Address:

    Belgrave House

    76 Buckingham Palace Road

    London

    SW1W 9TQ

    1. Badvok

      Re: According to Companies House ..

      And you know for certain that that was the legal entity responsible for using the cookie do you?

      I suspect, but don't know for certain, that the workaround for Safari was orchestrated and implemented as part of Google's main US operations and not by Google UK. Are you still certain it is so clear cut?

  7. Alexander Hanff 1

    More info plus all court documents

    You can read my summary of today's proceedings along with all the court documents on the following URL:

    http://www.googlelawsuit.co.uk/high-court-creates-new-privacy-tort-as-google-lose-safari-hearing

    It was actually a very significant judgment creating the first new English tort in 80 years.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
      Facepalm

      Re: Alexander Hanff 1

      "You can read my summary of today's proceedings along with all the court documents:

      http://www.googlelawsuit.co.uk/high-court-creates-new-privacy-tort-as-google-lose-safari-hearing"

      When I was reading that, I was thinking this guy could be the British Groklawyer.

      Then I got to the comments section:

      https://twitter.com/GoogleLawsuit

      <face/palm>WTF?</face/palm>

    2. Badvok

      Re: More info plus all court documents

      An interesting assessment. So a UK user accessing a non-UK service makes the operator of that service liable to prosecution under UK law.

      I also wonder whether this judgment might also set a rather dangerous reverse precedent, i.e. that UK companies with users overseas must abide by all the applicable laws for the countries those users are accessing the services from?

      1. Alexander Hanff 1

        Re: More info plus all court documents

        I think you need to read the judgment more carefully. The Judge very clearly states (citing historical cases to support his view) that jurisdiction is determined based on where the activity took place. In the case of the Google Safari issue, the users viewed those adverts on devices in the UK - and the cookies were placed on devices in the UK - therefore the action which the complainants are asking permission to sue for took place in the UK - Douglas vs Hello! is the main supporting case cited in support of this argument.

        To put this into context - if you went into a supermarket in Las Vegas, tripped over a bad piece of flooring and broke you knee - the injury took place in the US and you would sue in the US, not the UK.

        As for UK companies abiding by applicable laws in the US, you need to follow the news more. For extradition to the US based on laws they have broken there (even if they have never set foot in the country), that is before you even consider SAFE Act in the US which has extra-jurisdictional powers written into it.

        It is not unusual for courts to extend their jurisdictional reach beyond their borders - especially US courts.

        1. Badvok

          Re: More info plus all court documents

          "In the case of the Google Safari issue, the users viewed those adverts on devices in the UK - and the cookies were placed on devices in the UK."

          Interesting interpretation that unfortunately sums up a fairly typical ignorance of the technology involved.

          To put it another way: The users accessed a web site. That web site served content from Google's non-UK web servers (probably US based), Google's non-UK web servers used perfectly legal cookie semantics to store a small tag on the users device. Further accesses to Google's non-UK web servers utilised this tag to attach records in their own non-UK databases to that browser instance and then used that data to decide which ads to serve when the user next accessed them. No user data was stored in the UK, and no illegal activity was performed on the device in the UK, so where exactly did the offense occur?

          Seems like a typical case where our judicial systems can't get to grips with the modern world.

          1. Alexander Hanff 1

            Re: More info plus all court documents

            Mr Badvok, your interpretation is completely erroneous. The users of the devices had removed their consent for the placing of third party cookies being placed on their devices by using Safari (which block third party cookies). READ THE JUDGMENT. The cookies (lets call them what they are not a "small tag") were placed onto the end users terminal equipment (the device) which was physically located in the UK ergo the cookies were physically located in the UK also - not somewhere else in the world, the UK.

            The targeted adverts were viewed on the same devices IN THE UK which is another part of the complaint - the Misuse of Private Information part of the complaint. The Claimants' private information was used to display those adverts IN THE UK, on the physical devices they were using IN THE UK - they were not displayed on some remote server where the web site was located at all, a script sent those specific ads to those specific users devices and other visitors to the same web site stored on the remote servers were most likely shown completely different ads (also sent directly to their devices in whichever country they were physically using said devices.)

            So it seems the only person here who doesn't understand the technology, is you.

        2. cortland

          Re: More info plus all court documents

          -- It is not unusual for courts to extend their jurisdictional reach beyond their borders - especially US courts. --

          One very large problem with extraterritoriality (sorry, didn't invent the word) is that if we were to follow that to its logical conclusion, online services accessible from abroad would have to obey all foreign laws, including those restricting what one can see or discuss.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We fight for your privacy, and Justice, against Evil!

    I wonder how far the lawsuit would go if it was declared that the fines will go to charity, unless the tracked people can show harm done?

    1. bigtimehustler

      Re: We fight for your privacy, and Justice, against Evil!

      You'd still have loads, most of these people are in it for the media attention and their own publicity.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Flame

    In a fair world people would be *pay* you for that data. In our world they simply take it.

    And let's be clear about this.

    It's our f**king data, not Apples, Googles, Microsofts or any other sh**bags.

    1. tom dial Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: In a fair world people would be *pay* you for that data. In our world they simply take it.

      If you don't want to share "your" data, you don't have to. The problem claimed here seems to be that Google copied data that the user, via the browser settings, wished not to share.

      I wonder whether the plaintiffs actually can prove that their settings were as they claim, assuming that the truth has something to do with it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In a fair world people would be *pay* you for that data. In our world they simply take it.

      "And let's be clear about this.

      It's our f**king data, not Apples, Googles, Microsofts or any other sh**bags."

      You were assimilated when you purchased the oh-so-tired shiny shiny. You will do as they *tell* you!

  10. TeeCee Gold badge
    Meh

    Oh really?

    A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety three months ago in the US.

    I wonder if that's because it's the same US whose risibly inadequate Data Protection legislation is frequent cause for mirth around these parts?

  11. kain preacher

    seize their google.co.uk domain and any .co.uk domain . When they complain , tell them them to sue them in what ever nation the y are claiming as the have no right to sue in the UK.Of course then they should claim that the country that they are being sued in has no jurisdiction.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google...

    ...is one of those companies that gives Capitalism a bad name. They are a perfect joy to hate.

  13. lglethal Silver badge
    WTF?

    Disconnect much?

    Google: "A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety three months ago in the US."

    Fact: An investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission in August of that year led to a measly $22.5m fine being dished out to Google for its privacy slip-up.

    On 19 November last year, the Wisconsin Attorney General ordered Google to cough an additional $17m to be shared out among 37 states and the District of Columbia.

    I wasnt aware that the Jobsian Distortion field had shifted to Google?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Mountain View, which has staff and offices in the UK, has been battling a lawsuit brought last year by Blighty-based Apple users, whose browser habits were slurped – without permission – by Google"

    Funny, they play in the munchkin playground with the rest of the fairies overseen by their mother, passing every minute detail of their lives back to Apple, and share it on Fakebook. Someone else slurps the data and their up in arms? Bit hypocritical isn't it?

    1. Stratman

      "Funny, they play in the munchkin playground with the rest of the fairies overseen by their mother, passing every minute detail of their lives back to Apple, and share it on Fakebook. Someone else slurps the data and their up in arms? Bit hypocritical isn't it?"

      Not at all.

      Let's assume you're a man and have a wife. Because she agrees to have sex with you, does that make it OK for anyone else to have sex with her without her consent?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correction!

    Apple/Google/all of the banks and bankers/money grabbing capitalist cos....

    ...are those companies that gives Capitalism a bad name. They are a perfect joy to hate.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple users bring lawsuit eh?

    Suppose they need the settlement to pay for their choice of oh-so-yesterdays tech.

  17. Someone Else Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What a pile of specious bullshit

    Google sayeth (with all the righteous indignation it can muster with a straight face):

    A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety three months ago in the US.

    OK, so I'm 'Murican, and I don't know all the fine subtleties of the Crown's law, but what possible difference could it make to a British court that the bought-and-sold American so-called Justice SystemTM ruled one way or another? Last time I looked, the UK is it's own sovereign country, not a suburb of Baltimore.

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