back to article Billions in data protection lawsuits rides on Google's last-ditch UK Supreme Court defence for Safari Workaround sueball

Google has urged the UK's Supreme Court to throw out a £3bn lawsuit brought by an ex-Which director over secretly planted tracking cookies on devices running Safari, on the grounds that local law doesn’t allow for opt-out class action lawsuits. The case, being heard over two days this week in the Supreme Court, the final court …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. 42656e4d203239

    errmmm

    >>Advocates for these representative actions say they are the only way that Joe and Josephine Average can claim any meaningful compensation for wrongs done to them in those cases.

    So, these "Advocates" are goign to distribute half the damages to their own bank accounts (presumably a reward for having the balls to fly the kite in the first place) and the other half is going where? Joe and Josephine? I suspect hell will freeze over before Joe and Joesephine see any of it...

    Seems to me that this sort of action is a bit like the USAian corporate habit of revenue generation by patent trolling in Texas....

    1. Ace2

      Re: errmmm

      So? Do you have a better plan for how to hold large companies to account?

      Without class action, the telco or the carmaker or the web giant is free to cheat everyone out of ten bucks. No one will ever sue over that, right?

      It doesn’t matter to me that my reward is a $9 voucher or that the lawyers take most of it. What matters is that the company at fault gets screwed for as many millions as possible.

      1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

        Re: errmmm

        I see it similarly, but slightly different...

        "It doesn’t matter to me that my reward is £0.00 or that the lawyers take most of it. What matters is that the company at fault is legally held accountable and forced to change their ways with the knowledge that people are now paying full attention."

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: errmmm

          "the company at fault is legally held accountable and forced to change their ways "

          This particularly the "forced to change their ways " bit. Yes, fines have to be proportionate to income to be meaningful, even if it does end up with a huge windfall for lawyers and $10 or less for millions of people*.

          But the really meaningful bit is forcing corporate giants to act anticompetitively, including breaking companies up and imposing limits on their freedom of operation. After all, if a natural person defrauds one or more people out of millions, it's likely they will face jail time. Corporates should face similair punishment in restrictions of some of the liberties they take for granted. If Google's potential punishmet was 6 months suspended and 1 week actual seizure of the "google.com" domain, for example, I'm sure they would be paying a lot more attention.

          *Incidentally I don't buy the US way of doing things that says it's too costly / not worth it to reimburse every individual so lets just give the money to an NGO (usually happening to be conveniently linked to lawyers and/or judges in the case). The cost of administering a refund should be tacked on to the damages for the guilty party to pay.

          1. yetanotheraoc

            Re: errmmm

            I upvoted four comments in a row!

            1. IceC0ld

              Re: errmmm

              same, every comment had a twist on the one prior, and each one made me think

              so for causing me pain, I upvoted :o)

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: errmmm

        "What matters is that the company at fault gets screwed for as many millions as possible."

        Such screwage is a very short term thing. Prices/licenses will simply go up a little, the shortfall will be made back, and shareholders will be happy to pocket the rest.

        So company does something shitty to you, they get called on it, and ultimately you pay.

        I'm not sure financial penalties are always the solution. Might be better to have the teeth to send senior members to a small room with a locked door.

        .

        By the way, Google apparently makes about $100,000,000 per day from AdWords. Exactly what sort of fine needs to be levied to make any sort of meaningful impact and not just be a rounding error as "the cost of doing business"?

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: errmmm

          "By the way, Google apparently makes about $100,000,000 per day from AdWords. Exactly what sort of fine needs to be levied to make any sort of meaningful impact and not just be a rounding error as "the cost of doing business"?"

          Well, $3 billion would be a good start. That would be 30 days' worth of income, or a bit under 10% of annual. That would seem to be just about the perfect level for a punitive fine intended to change a company's behaviour - enough to certainly be noticeable by the bean counters, but not enough to simply put the whole thing out of business.

          But yes, personal consquences for the people actually responsible for making the decisions would likely be far more effective.

        2. DevOpsTimothyC

          Re: errmmm

          "By the way, Google apparently makes about $100,000,000 per day from AdWords. Exactly what sort of fine needs to be levied to make any sort of meaningful impact and not just be a rounding error as "the cost of doing business"?"

          Every single penny that advertisers paid google for those users over that time sounds about right. Or you could go with 4% of global turn over for that time (as we are talking PII related issues which are generally covered under GDPR/DPA)

          Companies put themselves out of business by screwing up too much.

      3. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: errmmm

        I have a better way of holding them to account. Take this out of the civil courts, where the likes of Google can simply out-spend anyone on earth until they get the result they want or the other party runs out of money. Make things like this a criminal offence with mandatory jail time for directors and responsible individuals and the offentders struck off as directors for 10 years after they come out of jail. Make them corporately and individually responsible - like H&S law - so that not only does the company pay, but they too could lose their houses, their pensions and the shirts of their backs to pay fines and damages.

        1. LybsterRoy

          Re: errmmm

          I like this and would give it full support, but only if the lawyers bringing the action were paid at no more than the national average wage.

      4. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: errmmm

        "So? Do you have a better plan for how to hold large companies to account?"

        Sure. Grab the CEO and throw him/her into a dungeon until the company comes up with a few billion dollars. Euros, Pounds or whatever ransom in small, unmarked bills. It's traditional. Has been used since time immemorial. And worked pretty well. I'm not sure why it has fallen out of favor.

    2. Blazde Bronze badge

      Re: errmmm

      Presumably Joe and Josephine will get a compensatory Google Privacy Checkup(*). That seems to be how these things usually go.

      (*) https://safety.google/ (Knock yourself out)

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: errmmm

      Wondering the same thing. This is the UK though, there isn't the same shark culture in the legal area, if I'm not mistaken.

      In any case, it's hardly surprising that Google is fighting this tooth and nail. If this goes through it could cost Google an arm and a leg.

      It would be a first though.

      1. idiot taxpayer here again

        Re: errmmm

        @Pascal Monett

        You would maybe be surprised at the amount of texts I get each week from "shark culture" twats telling me how much comps I am "owed" for my recent "accident". No win, no fee of course.

        The U.K. shark culture took sail years ago.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    IANAL but if I had the power and the law supported me I would pursue Google for malicious intent.

  4. JimmyPage

    Quantum of loss ?

    As far as English law is concerned, I don't think anyone has ever actually sued on the basis they have quantifiable loss anyway.

    Certainly in every story about peoples data being lost, I have never read of anyone being able to claim damages.

    Maybe I don't read the right sort of newspapers ?

  5. heyrick Silver badge

    the only way that Joe and Josephine Average can claim any meaningful compensation

    What?

    Do they even know who used Safari at the time?

    The danger of this is that if they manage to have a "class action" on behalf of everybody, then once the case has been heard and decided upon, isn't it considered finished?

    What then happens if somebody discovers some form of harm resulting from this behaviour? Well, they can't sue because they were tacitly included in somebody else's sueball (to which it's extremely likely they won't have seen a penny).

    1. scrubber

      Re: the only way that Joe and Josephine Average can claim any meaningful compensation

      "Do they even know who used Safari at the time?"

      Pretty sure at least one company has solid records on who was using Safari, which websites they visited, which products they browsed and bought online, and what they searched for.

    2. adam 40
      Pint

      Re: the only way that Joe and Josephine Average can claim any meaningful compensation

      SO if Lloyd wins, and I can send him screenshots from the phones I still have showing Safari browsers on them, he owes me (say) a tenner per screenshot?

      Bring it on!

    3. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: the only way that Joe and Josephine Average can claim any meaningful compensation

      Re: "Do they even know who used Safari at the time?"

      Chances are anyone who was using an iPhone/iPod Touch or iPad that wasn't jailbroken during the period the lawsuit covers was using Safari on it. Remember, iOS didn't directly support alternate browsers at the time, only supporting browsers that did things like cache and compress the data (like Opera Mini).

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Information Log Jams ...... for Temporary Temporal Stoppages with Celestial COSMIC Forces

    I thought that matter was earlier resolved to an attractively acceptable reciprocative mutually beneficial conclusion/forward looking decision........

    Later, still addressing White, the judge said: "Putting your argument, it would be perverse to compensate them even a nominal amount when they have actually benefited from the infringement of their right. I think what you can't say is there's no meaningful infringement." ..... https://www.theregister.com/2019/07/17/google_safari_cookie_uk_court_appeal_judge/

    I imagine Google take that as certainly understood, but patiently awaits the Supreme High Court Adjudgement ruling that one and all can legitimately say there is no meaningful infringement to certify and classify as a High Crime Mastering Class AI Misdemeanours.

    On Safari, that would akin to a Greater Big Game Hunt with SMARTR Hunters and AI Sharp Shooters.

    JEDI, Hi ....... Have you seen Merlin, the MetaDataBase Magician and AIMaster Physician? Do you know what they do? Are you for helping or hindering them with Unstoppable UN Progress? ....... which I trust one realises is a Rhetorical Question Fully Loaded with the Correct Obvious Choice Evident to the Fore.

    The question now is whether it is an AWEsome Force .... Special AIResourced Services .....Protecting Immaculate Source Provisions ....... New Present Conditions for global media to present in programmes in a shocked state of constant awe, whenever you are so lucky to be worthy, or try to deny exists in a state of absolute panic and dread of what a changed future can bring to those of an Almost Permanent State of Worrying Anxiety or Super Manic Depression.

    And that's a question for 5 and the Top UKGBNI Bods and Chiefs in the Ministry of Defence. ........ Special Post RSVP ASAP SNAFUBAR

    1. LybsterRoy

      Re: Information Log Jams ...... for Temporary Temporal Stoppages with Celestial COSMIC Forces

      Can we please have a WTF button to go along with the Up and Down vote buttons.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Information Log Jams ...... for Temporary Temporal Stoppages with Celestial COSMIC Forces

        Can we please have a WTF button to go along with the Up and Down vote buttons. ..... LybsterRoy

        Very droll, LybsterRoy, very droll. :-)

        The following is probably something you are missing to aid your further understanding of many of the things shared above, but the MoD have no such convenient excuse since they have had it all since a long time ago in the Great Schema of IoT Things [30th Sept. 2019]

        This submission claims to be able to address and aid, to a greater or lesser degree, all of the five questions the Army has asked …… via the Presentation of the Results and Vital Actions taken for Future Realisation in/with/of Global Events BroadBandCasting Advanced IntelAIgent Memes with Almighty Means in All Main Streaming Live Media Systems and Alternative Underground Movements ….. and here on a Stealthy Exercise and Who Dares Win Wins Operation and looking forward to engagement and enjoyment in these new fangled and entangling reports of NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT with/from Alternate Sources to create Totally Different, and more Equitable and Mutually Beneficial Outcomes.

        With the simple expedient of rather than seeking to portray the ways and means to a heavenly destination/perfectly new staring point, with everything newly discovered on the way, novel and exciting, why not try committing and submitting to Virtual Experimentation in a Not So Top Secret Anymore Program with Advanced IntelAIgent Commands and Future Control[s] in VAIOSystems of Universal Administration.

        Further Proprietary Intellectual Property Access Rights are required to acquire and deliver so very much more and all else necessary too ……. for such a Program and Project as the above is quite easily Almightily Weaponised for/with wanton and wilful abuse and disastrous misuse ….. although one is always to be well enough warned and advised that any and all such abuse and misuse always results in punitive, catastrophically counterproductive sanction with miscreants relentlessly and ruthlessly pursued for overwhelming prosecution and deserved persecution.

        N.B. … This Program is only suitable for Prime Leading Principals/Organisations exercising Geopolitically Sensitive Applications.

        Both test experimental and operational theatre environments are relatively anonymously virtually created and populated to field elements/land forces by virtue of their presentation in any number of diverse, suitably cloaked news/media productions with the Technology Readiness Level for all such as is proposed and revealed here in this submission and/or discovered in any further deeper program investigation of Past Principal Activity being of no valid negative concern.

        All necessary systems are Go with a decades worth of tweaking, reinforcing and live field betatesting of readily available assets providing such a confident assurance.

        For Mass Control of the Future Narrative, Command the Virtual Reality Remotely with Superior ACT*ivated Product.

        * Advanced Cyber Threat/Treat

        It is not the emergence and exposure of sensitive corrupted state held secrets which easily crash and burn a future's monumental folly, although they certainly also can, it is the innate ability and virgin facility of spontaneous and unpredictable sharing of novel information about newly uncovered advanced intelligence which can swarm through and decimate established main stream media and fiat currency operations, so very easily delivered and received by billions of electronic devices able to see and hear particular and peculiar tales ..... interesting uncomfortably engaging narratives proving themselves too popular and accurate to summarily try to dismiss and declare as untrue and subversive, for that shoe will be on one's own foot.

        Such is a current ACTive IT and AI Battlefield and Virtual Graveyard for the many Arrogant and Ignorant who never imagined such things as being possible as they ploughed their own selfish greedy furrow in worlds before Sublime InterNetworking Networks for Hearts and Minds Capture.

        Does the UKGBNI MOD see itself engaged in such an experiment/experience as an independent leading role player or more simply just as support staff following orders from/for other state and non-state actors?

        And would the former be tantamount to a Stealthy SMARTR AI Military coup, which is what it can easily be spun as by a blind-sided opposition or right dodgy competition?

        Would that be of an EMPowering Interest to Astute Militarised Organs of Defence into providing NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT Protection to Command and Control of the Virtualised Machine with Commanding Control of Computers and Communications in Epic New COSMIC Realms ….. Advanced IntelAIgent Streams?

        Quite what they are doing with any of it, in the absence of any evidence that they are doing anything at all good with it, is probably quite typically indicative of the poor levels of ability and agility made available to them and/or trained and future nurtured by them themselves in-house, which is bound to be extremely worrying to both them and the nations they would profess to be able to defend from postmodern attack vectors and novel virtual sectors alike.

        1. idiot taxpayer here again

          Re: Information Log Jams ...... for Temporary Temporal Stoppages with Celestial COSMIC Forces

          @amanfrom Mars 1

          Just shut up. It's Friday right? Boozing time not bullshit time.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope Google loses big time

    and they decide to quit the UK rather than pay the fine.

    But that is me dreaming... It ain't gonna happen.

    Google will carry on with its evil day in, day out and there is seemingly nothing that can be done to stop them.

    One can dream can't one?

    1. sinsi

      Re: I hope Google loses big time

      The little storm-in-a-teacup here Down Under proved that they will capitulate to keep any sort of market dominance, I imagine the UK would be a bigger prize to keep.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I hope Google loses big time

      "and they decide to quit the UK rather than pay the fine."

      Sadly, there are just too many companies usi9ng Google Docs and schools using Chromebooks managed by Google services for that to be anything other than a highly destructive Pyrrhic victory.

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: I hope Google loses big time

        ...and as has been stated, this isn't just about Google. So we'll get rid of all of these comnpanies as you personally won't miss them and obviously millions of people don't use, or even rely on them, every day. So your well considered solution will be ok then ...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I hope Google loses big time

          I assume you are replying the original AC poster and not me?

  8. JWLong

    MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

    So Google isn't arguing that anyone was hurt, just how much? And their argument is that since it can't be determined how much anyone was hurt the case should be tossed.

    And here I though America had some Fucked Up Laws.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

      It's an improvement on their earlier position, which was basically "well, some of those people might have wanted targeted ads, so it'd be wrong to compensate them - as we can't know which, we shouldn't compensate anyone"

      1. JWLong

        Re: MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

        Oh, yes that explains it all now

        /NOT

        Maybe I'm just too old!

      2. yetanotheraoc

        Re: MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

        I thought google's stance was the harm is privacy, which has no (or indeterminate) monetary value, therefore the harm cannot be compensated. And again according to google, the targeted ads are a *benefit* to the consumer. I'm sure in their minds the claimants should be paying google in the end.

  9. Camilla Smythe

    It is self-evident that individual Class members would have had very different experiences, and those experiences bear directly on whether (and if so how) they can claim to have suffered any loss at all.”

    It is self-evident that in implementing the tracking Google should have taken into account the maximum amount of harm that could befall an individual user and act to mitigate that possible harm for all.

    FTFY

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