back to article You ain't getting around UK data laws on a technicality, top judge tells Google

One of Britain's most senior judges has warned Google over its attempts to squeeze out of a £3bn data protection lawsuit by claiming some people might have consented to the adtech monolith's lawbreaking. The warning came as barrister Anthony White QC argued Google's case in the Court of Appeal this morning. One of White's …

  1. N2 Silver badge

    Excellent news

    The sooner these shysters respect the law the better, but 3 billion quid really is loose change.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Excellent news

      yes, but a few billion here and a few billion there soon adds up to real money.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Excellent news

        Whack a zero on the end, then we might have a fine that would make Google give a fuck and not just put it down as 'the cost of doing business'.

        "[Google's] Total cash and marketable securities rose 4% to $113.5 billion." in Q1 2019 (src)

  2. Blockchain commentard

    If found guilty (a pretty certain likelyhood), can the fanbois then sue Apple for allowing SafariGate to occur in the first place i.e. they should have written Safari in a better, more secure way?

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge
      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Well, they could sue - that is, they could file a lawsuit. In the US, at least, you can file a lawsuit about nearly anything; people file all sorts of ridiculous lawsuits.1 It would be very unlikely to go anywhere, though.

        1Sometimes just to make a point, of course, with no intention that the suit be successful in any legal way. When Ernie Chambers, longtime Nebraska legislator and political legend, sued God in 2007, he was making a point about frivolous lawsuits and access to the courts. (He was also, as usual, making a point about how Ernie Chambers can work the system better than pretty much anyone else in Nebraska; the man is a legend for a reason.)

    2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      No. But if they could, MS would be dead by now.

  3. Halfmad

    Dear El'Reg

    Why would "apple fanboys" care if Google got fined? It was their data Google was illegally obtaining, if anything we should ALL hope they get fined.

    1. BigSLitleP

      Re: Dear El'Reg

      Apple fanboys will care because a) free money and b) they get to take a swipe at a company that isn't apple.

      But your point is still true, we should hope that Google lose because this was a complete dickfish move.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Dear El'Reg

      Fines and payments for compensation are two different things. This case is about the latter.

      1. aks

        Re: Dear El'Reg

        Fines are the current way for governments to put their shovel into the money that successful companies are making.

        Compensation seems to be an afterthought. Compensation for what, exactly? If the issue is exposing users to malware, identity theft and other ways of being robbed then throw the book at them. If it's a way of targetting advertising to specific groups, that could be regarded as positively helpful. Personally, I don't want any targetted advertising and 'feel' that I don't take any more notice of them than ad's in newspapers.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Dear El'Reg

          aks,

          Or to put it another way, fines are the way for governments to force companies to comply with the law - and class action compensation is a way for the public to do the same thing when the large companies in question have managed to successfully lobby/bribe/capture the regulators put in place to stop them abusing their power.

          You see, there's a simple method for said companies to avoid fines and compensation. And that is complying with the fucking law.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dear El'Reg

            It was not complying with the fucking law (or at least the law on fucking) that got Assange into trouble in Sweden. Perhaps if the penalty for corporate malfeasance was for execs to spend a few years in a broom cupboard in a South American embassy they would be more careful.

        2. Michael Habel Silver badge

          Re: Dear El'Reg

          And the Global Warming hox will be the next big money pile for this pigs to stick the snouts into.

  4. mordac

    Victimless crime

    So what they’re arguing is that if the owner of some data (like PII, or maybe copyright data) doesn’t suffer any harm from the data being stolen, then it’s not a crime?

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: Victimless crime

      Google has a long history of playing fast and loose with other people's copyright.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Victimless crime

      Assuming Chocolate Factory did not abuse the data they still committed a crime. Thus they are the hook no matter what they did not do or if no one really cared. Breaking and entering is a crime even if you do nothing else.

      Over here contract clauses are often squashed if they violate the law and I assume this is true in Blighty. So claiming someone agreed to an illegal clause does automatically mean the law is neutered, bloody shysters.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Victimless crime

        Yeah, UK law takes precedence over EULA's and contracts etc. too

    3. Nunyabiznes

      Re: Victimless crime

      To me that's like saying "Yeah I drove drunk but I didn't actually hurt anyone - no harm no foul"

      1. Dr. Mouse

        Re: Victimless crime

        Yep.

        A similar one to this case:

        "Yeah, I stole people's money, but I invested it in the stock market. Some people might have wanted to invest in the stock market, so we can't pay compensation to those people."

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Victimless crime

          Wasn't there a case a while back of a Ponzi + embezzlement scheme where the guy running it actually invested the money he stole in fine art, which happened to appreciate faster than expected and in fact faster than the returns he was reporting to his clients? So when he was caught and they sold off his assets, the victims were compensated from the proceeds, and were not actually financially harmed.

          Didn't spare him a prison sentence, and indeed it should not have. Fraud doesn't stop being fraud just because your victims get lucky.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Isn't that precious ?

    Oh, it's going to be such a problem to find out who should be compensated, and maybe one or two were actually happy, so let's just throw a rug over the whole thing, m'kay ?

    Put another way : Your Honor, yes I stalked all these women and took pics of them in their nighties, but since one of them is an exhibitionist, what's the problem ?

    Sometimes I feel judges should be able to arbitrarily double, or even triple, a fine if the defense presents such stupid arguments.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Isn't that precious ?

      This happens in the US (punitive damages) and has led to a rather dysfunctional legal system (attorneys work on a percentage, push for punitive damages...)

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Isn't that precious ?

        Rather dysfunctional? Any legal system that can lock people up on a lesser charge that the innocents are given as an option to avoid a greater charger they are also innocent of id totally dysfunctional already.

        Shit its only a couple of years since it stopped using hocus pocus hair identification tests that seemed to only work when the defendant was black.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Isn't that precious ?

          I was writing about the commercial law, not criminal law.

          Punitive damages means that criminal law leaks over into commercial law, but the burden of proof is lower for commercial law and the income for attorneys can be much higher.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do not taunt happy fun ball.

    Also, do not taunt Geoffrey Vos, because not only is he cleverer than you, he has seen it all before.

  7. Fayaz wassan

    I actually wonder where the money goes, what it actually funds?

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      If like the US it goes to a charity / non-profit that is cosy with the company involved.

    2. DontFeedTheTrolls
      Boffin

      Wings?

      Sometimes it goes to charity.

      On rare occasions a website is set up and you can claim your "share" by proving you were one of the 4.4million. Red Bull doesn't give you Wings had such a site a few years ago, each claimant go $10 (or $15 of vouchers)

  8. IGotOut Silver badge

    I've always thought the punishment should fit the crime.

    For example, if a news paper lies in new reports, every single cm previously devoted to that lie, should have "we lied" in every newspaper printed from that point on,in the same font and on the same pages until it's matched like for like.

    In this case Google should be banned from placing ANY paid for ads into someone using the safari browser,until it is matched like for like.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: I've always thought the punishment should fit the crime.

      ”In this case Google should be banned from placing ANY paid for ads into someone using the safari browser,until it is matched like for like.“

      Or place an equivalent number of ads simply with the text ‘We broke the law’ - and a link to the lawsuit.

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    .....some people might have actively wanted to receive targeted ads.

    Someone might actually want ads? I'm shocked. Shocked I tell you. Does this barrister live in an alternate universe? And did he actually say that with a straight face?

    1. Dr. Mouse

      I think this is more "someone might have wanted to receive targeted ads instead of regular ads"

      1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

        It's an interesting question, does anyone want to receive targeted ads? I know it'll only be a representative sample from a totally biased data set, but up-vote for no, down-vote for yes?

        We can then petition Mr. Vos for some of that class action cash and then retire to pub for a beer or 6.

        1. SonofRojBlake

          If the choice is between receiving ads and not receiving ads, no ads please.

          If the choice is between receiving ads for Bod knows what, and possibly receiving an ad for something I might actually be interested in... does it make me a bad person that I'd prefer the second one?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            No, but it makes you very rare

            I don't know anyone at all who wants personally targeted adverts, because that requires the advertising network to know a lot about individuals, personally.

            Most people think it's ok to see adverts tailored to a specific virtual location or event, and are even happy for that advertising to help pay for the thing. eg if I'm watching sportsball, I'm happy for advertisers to place adverts they think are relevant to sportsball fans, and I'm even happy to see adverts related to the search terms I typed while I'm on the results page. Much like it's fine to be handed a flyer for a shop when I walk into a shopping centre.

            I find it fundamentally intrusive and abusive to follow me around. I would not stand for someone to follow me around town taking notes about where I've been and then handing me flyers related to places I went yesterday.

            Would it be ok for someone to hand you a flyer in Oxford Street saying "Our spies watched you buying a lawnmower in Asda yesterday, would you like to buy a lawnmower from B&Q?"

            That's what targeted advertising is. It's stupid and intrusive, and it's also illegal now.

          3. Craigie

            I have had targeted ads disabled across Google for a couple of years now. The ads I do get are now far more interesting. They are more repetitive though; I think the pool of such ads is a lot smaller.

        2. Adelio Silver badge

          As many other people have commented the annoying thing about personalised ads is that they are normally giving you ads for things you have ALREADY bought. Goddam it.

          I do NOT want ant more **** (Place your particular item name here). And forthat matter I get fed up that after every on-line purchase i make being asked to rate the purchased item!

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          I've mentioned before that I actually like the advertisements I get on my Kindle "with special offers". They're unobtrusive and several times have pointed me toward books that I very likely wouldn't have found otherwise, and which I enjoyed.

          Of course, there's no shortage of things to read, and I had no problems finding plenty of books before Amazon was a gleam in Jeff Bezos' eye. I still browse in and buy from physical bookshops, or pick up books from friends, or on a few memorable occasions from those books that people scatter about rental homes and the like. (Got into Kate Atkinson that way.) But there have been a few novels in particular that I'm quite glad Amazon put in front of me, such as Hawkins' The Library at Mount Char.

          The advertising model worked just fine for many years in print media, because the advertisements were usually more-or-less audience-appropriate, and they were usually unobtrusive.

          Of course, none of that excuses at all Google's deliberate subverting of a privacy measure. Frankly, I'd like to see both company officers and the development team that created and shipped the "Safari Hack" brought personally to account for that. It's inexcusable. (And, no, I'm not a Safari or Apple device user.)

  10. Public Citizen
    Flame

    Until the fines levied on these world devouring companies are expressed in percentage of Net Worth [worldwide] then they will continue to be viewed as an operating expense by the perpetrators.

    When they start getting hit with fines from all directions, each for between 5 and 10 percent or more of the enterprises net worth [otherwise viewed as Ill Gotten Gains] they will start paying attention to The Law, and not before.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Given they will be able to get the law changed for a lot less than that in the UK

      I am not looking forward to the next few years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Given they will be able to get the law changed for a lot less than that in the UK

        @tom age 7 - yeah the UK's gonna repeal GDPR cos they're only gonna trade with the US post brexit. I see how well non-compliance of GDPR is going for the Yanks, oh, isn't that what the article is about? You, sir, are some type of hat

  11. Shocked Jock
    IT Angle

    Barrister? High Court? Ah, that foreign court! The rest of us in the UK will doubtless deal with these matters differently.

  12. David 164

    Last time I check technicalities are allowed. It likely this judge is just venting knowing he will have to let google off the hook because of the very technicalities they have pointed.

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