Google faces UK legal threat over 'covert' Safari tracking

A UK law firm is says Google should be "accountable" and is looking for cash from the search giant.

Google is facing a potentially serious legal threat in the UK, as irate Brits who feel that the search giant has been illegally tracking them have formed a protest group, and enlisted a law firm to take matters to court.

In August last year Google was whacked with a whopping $22.5 million (around £14.3m) fine, after the Federal Trade Commission ruled that Google had placed a tracking cookie on devices using Apple's Safari browser, despite having assured customers that Safari's handling of third-party cookies would mean they were automatically opted out of the tracking.

The cookies were used to serve up adverts, which is how Google makes a lot of its money. UK law firm Olswang says its clients are looking for "damages, disclosure and an apology" from the big G.

The protest group, snappily dubbed 'Safari Users Against Google's Secret Tracking', says on its Facebook page that it was set up "for anyone who used the Safari Internet browser between September 2011 and February 2012, and who was illegally tracked by Google". As you can imagine, that's potentially rather a larger number of claimants.

One person has issued proceedings so far -- Judith Vidal-Hall stated, "Whether something is private or not should be up to the Internet surfer, not Google."

It's hard to know what the group's chances of securing compensation from Google are, though. I suspect we'll have to wait and see. Last year Google was criticised by the EU justice commissioner over changes to its privacy policy. 

Does Google's online tracking make you nervous, or do you trust the search tycoon to handle your data responsibly? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.

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About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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