Google, the world’s leading search engine and one of its online software providers, claims that a landmark data breach case filed against it in the United Kingdom is not viable, and there are no grounds for it to proceed.
On April 29th, the first of a two-day hearing, Google legal counsel Antony White stated that any data protection lawsuit similar to those filed in the United States might only seek action under British laws if the claimants sustained damage following a data breach. White further stated that any such awards would fail to consider different modes of phone use among complainants.
Filed by Richard Lloyd, a former director for consumer rights organization Which?, this landmark case was brought on behalf of over five million iPhone users, based on claims of widespread data breaches. In theory, the success of Lloyd’s case is dependent on whether such class actions can be used to claim damages resulting from data compromised in search engines, streaming media sites, and social networks.
If successful, Lloyd’s case could spur on similar legal action regarding data protection against other internet titans like Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Tinder.
Trawling User Info for Advertisers?
In Lloyd’s petition, he claims that Google violated the privacy of iPhone users. The tech giant allegedly took details from phone owners’ internet browsing histories to sell a targeted online advertising service from which it has profited.
Lloyd further claims that Google has been earning billions of pounds in advertising revenue based on individuals’ personal data. In which case, he says, “It is only right that they should be held to account for profiting [from our personal data.]”
He further stated that Google may owe people who used Apple-made mobile phones between 2011 and 2012 a redress of over 3 billion pounds if the suit pushes through.
The Experts Weigh In
Legal and corporate experts feel that the class action filed against Google may have longstanding repercussions on the global tech industry, especially interactive platforms if it is not thrown out of court.
Citing that the case is quite significant, these experts are urging businesses for fairness and transparency with users, particularly when it comes to gathering and using their personal data for industrial profit.
However, on the flip side, critics say that such “opt out” class actions can lead to meritless claims that promise huge profits for litigators and their backers – something that is seen as equally unethical.
Rafi Azim-Khan, head of data privacy for legal firm Pillsbury opines that, while the case is ground-breaking in its scope, it could “result in a bank-breaking financial hit” for many companies. Indeed, members of the Confederation of British Industry have noted the risk of potentially ruinous awards and prompt settlements made regardless of the merits of a case.
Meanwhile, Lloyd’s supporters and other proponents claim that this will actually allow quicker access to justice, particularly in cases where individual claims are too small to pursue piecemeal. It is also seen as a more viable option to “opt in” cases wherein individuals all sign up for the case, but this may entail tremendous cost to both time and finances.