Google Loses Bid to Block U.K. Users’ Breach-of-Privacy Lawsuit

Google Inc. lost a bid to block a U.K. lawsuit filed by a group of Internet users who say the world’s biggest search engine violated their privacy rights.

The U.K. has jurisdiction to hear the claim “as there is a serious issue to be tried,” Judge Michael Tugendhat said in his ruling handed down today.

The claimants argued at an earlier hearing that Google overrode settings for Apple Inc.’s Safari Web browser using pieces of code known as cookies to track Internet use.

Google reached a $17 million settlement with 37 U.S. states in November over its circumvention of privacy settings for Safari users. It halted the method in February 2012 after the practice was reported in the media. The Mountain View, California-based company said the claims didn’t fulfill the conditions for permission to be granted to have the case in the U.K.

“When a market leader misbehaves, repeatedly, and seems to learn nothing from its errors, someone needs to stand up and persuade it to change,” Marc Bradshaw, one of the claimants, said in a written statement after the ruling.

The cookies allowed Google to see information about users’ race, political and religious beliefs, sexuality and financial situation, lawyers for the Internet users said in court documents. “A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety three months ago in the U.S.,” Google said in an e-mailed statement sent through an external agency today. “We still don’t think that this case meets the standards required in the U.K. for it to go to trial, and we’ll be appealing today’s ruling.”

Dan Tench, a lawyer at Olswang LLP representing Google’s opponents in the case, said outside court that the firm had been approached by 170 people in relation to the suit.

The case is Judith Vidal-Hall & Ors v Google Inc. in the U.K. High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, case no HQ13X03128