The Supreme Court has blocked a mass legal action against Google over claims that it secretly tracked millions of iPhone users’ web browsing activity while telling them that it did not.
Alphabet unit Google suffered a setback on Wednesday after Europe’s second-highest court dismissed its challenge to an EU antitrust ruling and 2.42 billion euro ($2.8 billion) fine in a major win for EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager.
Vestager sanctioned the world’s most popular internet search engine in 2017 for favoring its own price-comparison shopping service to give it an unfair advantage against smaller European rivals.
The shopping case was the first of a trio of decisions that have seen Google rack up a total of 8.25 billion euros in EU antitrust fines in the last decade. Vestager subsequently took on Amazon, Apple, and Facebook, where investigations are still ongoing.
The court has unanimously allowed Google’s appeal against the Court of Appeal’s 2019 judgment.
The representative action on behalf of over four million people in England and Wales – which could have resulted in iPhone users receiving up to £750 each in compensation – cannot now go ahead.
It was over claims the company collected users’ data between 2011 and 2012 – as part of an “unusual” and potentially groundbreaking representative action.
Consumer rights champion Richard Lloyd brought the claim similar to class-action style lawsuits in the US.
The ruling today gives Google and the rest of Big Tech the green light to continue misusing our data without consent, knowing they will go unpunished. It is a dark day when corporate greed is valued over our right to privacy.Lloyd’s solicitor, and managing partner at the law firm Milberg, James Oldnall commented.
A spokesperson for Google said: “This claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and that we addressed at the time.”
“People want to know that they are safe and secure online, which is why for years we’ve focused on building products and infrastructure that respect and protect people’s privacy,” they added.