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

Google Inc. lost an appellate court 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.

A three-judge panel said “misuse of private information should now be recognized as” causing harm or loss as it ruled the three claimants’ complaints should be heard at trial. Lawyers for the trio said in court documents that Google’s “clandestine tracking and collation” of their Internet usage through cookies was illegal under European law.

Internet companies are under increasing pressure from privacy groups to protect personal data, while governments across Europe have called on them to hand over information when there are concerns about national security.

The Mountain View, California-based company paid a civil penalty of $22.5 million to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for “misrepresenting to users” of the Safari browser that it wouldn’t place tracking cookies or aim targeted advertisements to those users, the judges said in the ruling.

While the three-judge panel turned down Google’s application to appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court, the company can file an appeal on its own. Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment to its press office e-mail.

“This is a David and Goliath victory,” Judith Vidal-Hall, one of the claimants, said in a statement. “The Court of Appeal has ensured Google cannot use its vast resources to evade English justice. Ordinary computer users like me will now have the right to hold this giant to account before the courts for its unacceptable, immoral and unjust actions.”

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

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