‘Google Three’ win right to sue

Posted: 30th March 2015

ComputerThree Internet users who claim that their privacy rights were violated by Google when the search engine gathered information on their browsing habits for marketing purposes have achieved a landmark success at the Court of Appeal.

In a decision of huge importance to computer users, Internet providers and all those who deal with personal data, the Court for the first time confirmed that misuse of private information is a legal ‘wrong’ for which compensation can be sought. The Court also ruled that it is not necessary for those who suffer distress due to breaches of their privacy to prove actual financial loss in order to mount a successful claim under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The three people launched proceedings after discovering that Google had used ‘cookies’ – small strings of text saved on their computers – in order to collect private information about their Internet usage. This was done without their knowledge or consent, and contrary to Google’s publicly stated policy. The information gleaned was used as part of Google’s commercial offering to advertisers.

In dismissing Google’s appeal against an earlier decision to like effect, the Court ruled that the trio had valid causes of action and opened the way for the proceedings to be served on the American company outside the jurisdiction. That means that the case will be heard by a High Court judge in England.