Google avoids £3bn payout in UK Supreme Court appeal

Google has won an appeal in the UK Supreme Court against a case brought over an alleged breach of personal data.

Richard Lloyd sought compensation under the Data Protection Act for damage allegedly suffered by Apple iPhone users due to the unlawful processing by Google of their personal data.

The claim is based on the factual allegation that, for several months in late 2011 and early 2012, Google secretly tracked the internet activity of some four million Apple iPhone users in England and Wales and used the data collected without the users' knowledge or consent for commercial purposes. The data was used by advertisers to target advertisements at users based on their browsing history.

If the technology giant had lost the appeal, it could have been forced to pay a sum of £750 per person, or around £3 billion.

“This morning’s judgment was gearing up to be an incredibly important case in the context of data protection, privacy and information law litigation,” said Jonathan McDonald, partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys. “However, Google and countless other businesses – including many who use cookies on their websites without a full understanding of the cookie rules – will be relieved with the court’s finding that a claim founded on the data protection legislation’s provisions providing for the payment of compensation – or “damages” – to individuals, requires a claimant to have suffered monetary loss or actual distress.”

McDonald added that the provisions do not require compensation to be paid where data has simply been processed or used in contravention of the law.

"This claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and that we addressed at the time," said a spokesperson from Google. "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.”

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