Britain's High Court [official website] ruled on Thursday that Google [corporate website] can be sued by British citizens in the UK despite Google's arguments that the case does not fall under British jurisdiction. The company is being sued for breach of privacy [UK Independent report] by over 100 users of Apple's Safari browser who claim that Google tracked their browsing history without their knowledge, breaching the 1998 Data Protection Act [text]. The company's lawyers argued that the case should be heard in California, where Google is based, claiming [UK Telegraph report] that assigning jurisdiction to the UK courts was inappropriate. The High Court rejected Google's bid [AP report] to stop the suit. Google has said that it plans to seek appeal, stating that it won a very similar case in Delaware [Bloomberg report] earlier this year when the plaintiff could not prove that he suffered a loss of property or money. The case of the British claimants differs from the Delaware case, however, as it is strengthened by the UK's Data Protection Act. This lawsuit has the potential to set a precedent for the ability of UK customers to litigate against US based internet companies.
Google has faced many legal challenges regarding the privacy of internet users. Last year the French data protection agency Commission nationale de l'nformatique et des libertes (CNIL) said that EU data protection agencies intended to take action against Google and investigate the Internet company's failure to comply with EU privacy laws. Also last year an Italian court overturned a conviction of Google executives [JURIST report] for privacy violations from allowing a bullying video to be posted on its site. In 2012 the company was fined $22.5 million [JURIST report] for alleged privacy misrepresentations concerning Apple's Safari Internet browser. Earlier that year a federal judge dismissed [JURIST report] a suit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website], a consumer privacy group, that asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] to block Google's proposed privacy changes [text] that would allow a user's information to be shared among several Google products, including YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps.