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Google says UK privacy laws can’t touch it

It's a US company not subject to UK laws, apparently
Mon Aug 19 2013, 11:39
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INTERNET SERVICES GIANT Google has told the UK High Court that it is not subject to UK privacy laws because it is a US company.

Google is in court because it danced around security settings on the Apple iPhone and collected some users' personal information through Safari.

The same issue has seen Google fined $22.5m by the US Federal Trade Commission. According to reports claimants in the UK are concerned that the Information Commissioner's Office will not take such a stern line.

Law firm Olswang is representing the 12 plaintiffs that have banded together in the UK to seek satisfaction.

In January it told us that it was only right that the internet firm pay UK citizens just as it was expected to pay US users.

"Google has a responsibility to consumers and should be accountable for the trust placed in them," said Dan Tench, a partner at the law firm.

"We hope that they will take this opportunity to give Safari users a proper explanation about what happened, to apologise and, where appropriate, compensate the victims of their intrusion."

According to a statement released by the firm, Google has filed court papers that say it will "contest the right of Safari users in the UK to bring a case in the country they live in and where they use Google's service".

It added that Google has "dismissed" the Safari claims as not being serious, and the claimants confirm that it has.

"Google's position on the law is the same as its position on tax: they will only play or pay on their home turf," said claimant Judith Vidal-Hall.

"What are they suggesting - that they will force Apple users whose privacy was violated to pay to travel to California to take action when they offer a service in this country on a site? This matches their attitude to consumer privacy. They don't respect it and they don't consider themselves to be answerable to our laws on it."

Tench, speaking this weekend, said that a letter sent to the ICO argues that fines, which could be chump change to a big company like Google, would make no difference and suggested that "enforcement" might be a better alternative.

"Our letter to the Information Commissioner conveyed our client's position that fines won't work and urged him to change Google's behaviour through an enforcement notice or other alternative sanctions," he said. "The response was that they found our client's position simplistic and difficult to implement."

Another claimant is keen to see Google punished effectively and has listed a number of changes he would like to see happen. These include placing a prominent apology on the Google home page.

"Google is one of the largest companies in the world with huge financial resources and access to the most expensive lawyers around the world. Regulators must rise to this challenge and rein in Google," said that plaintiff, Marc Bradshaw.

"If they fail, every internet user in this country will suffer and the right to online privacy could be lost forever."

Google has not responded to our request for comment. µ


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