Today the High Court took an important step in addressing ongoing concern about the collection of British people’s data by foreign companies.
A group of users of Apple’s Safari browser brought their action against Google after the company tracked their web use despite the ‘do not track’ feature of their browser being enabled. This was exposed by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer back in February 2012. As Google is based in the US, today’s hearing was to determine if it the case could be heard in the UK, or should be brought in the US, as Google argued.
That argument did not succeed. Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the UK courts were the “appropriate jurisdiction” to try the claims.
He said:“I am satisfied that there is a serious issue to be tried in each of the claimant’s claims for misuse of private information. The claimants have clearly established that this jurisdiction is the appropriate one in which to try each of the above claims.”
It’s absolutely right people are able to access justice in Britain when the issue concerns a company that has a significant presence here and offers services to millions of British people. This is an important case for privacy regulation, as it involved users making a specific choice about sharing data and being tracked that was not respected by Google.
It is an important principle that people are able to control who collects their information and how it is used and this case has the potential to enhance consumer protection and strengthen privacy in a number of areas. It is critical that companies respect the choices we make as consumers and this case could be a significant deterrent in future.