Google off the hook as UK Supreme Court blocks iPhone tracking class action

If the suit had been allowed to continue, Google could have been forced to pay $4.3 billion in compensation to millions of iPhone users

Katie Collins
Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
2 min read

Google will be breathing a sigh of relief over the UK's ruling on Wednesday.

Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Google scored a win in the UK on Wednesday as the country's Supreme Court blocked a class action lawsuit against the company, in which it was accused of secretly tracking millions of iPhone users. Had it been allowed to continue, the lawsuit could have cost Google £3.2 billion ($4.3 billion).

The case had been brought by UK consumer rights champion Richard Lloyd, former director of Which on behalf of 5.4 million iPhone users in the UK. Lloyd's cased was based upon Google tracking iPhone users through Apple 's Safari browser between 2011 and 2012. Using cookies, Google collected data on health, race, ethnicity, sexuality and finance even though users had chosen not to be tracked in their privacy settings.

"This claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and that we addressed at the time," said a spokeswoman for Google in a statement. "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."

In the Wednesday ruling, the judge said that there was no evidence that harm had been caused to the millions of affected iPhone users by Google's collection of their data. The ruling will likely affect other impending class actions, including similar claims that have been made against Facebook and TikTok.

The rules governing who and how a class action can be brought in the UK are much more onerous than in the US, making them far less common. But the judge added that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of other class actions being brought in the future -- so long as the damages could be calculated.

The news will come as disappointing to millions of consumers across the UK, said Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy in statement. "People who have suffered from data breaches must be able to hold big companies to account and get the redress they deserve," she said.