In short: London’s High Court on Monday dismissed a mobile data collection case against Google that alleged Alphabet's subsidiary illegally harvested sensitive information of some four million users of Apple's iPhones in England and Wales between 2011 and 2012. A company spokesperson called the claim meritless and welcomed the development. The group behind the litigation — Google You Owe Us — issued a prepared statement shortly following the ruling, confirming it will seek a permission to appeal the dismissal.
Justice Warby described Google's past actions as "wrongful, and a breach of duty" but took issue with the class-action nature of the lawsuit, preventing it from proceeding due to the fact that not all of the litigants it's supposed to encompass were affected by the defendant's data-harvesting practices in the same way. The court also opinionated that the vast majority of individuals eligible to join the litigation lack interest in the case. Google You Owe Us repeatedly claimed that's not the case, having once again reiterated that sentiment today, pointing to 20,000 petitioners that supported the legislation via its website. The group didn't clarify whether it vetted those who signed up for its updates in order to verify they're truly eligible to participate in the litigation.
Background: The lawsuit alleged Google used cookies to circumvent the privacy settings of Apple's Safari browsers for iOS devices, track users, then serve them targeted advertising based on the harvested information, even if they have specifically chosen the do-not-track option. Justice Warby also suggested calculating the exact number of affected users is next to impossible during previous case hearings, though the litigants never chimed in on those concerns in a substantial way. Google has been describing the case as groundless from day one, with the campaign itself starting last December.
Impact: The chances of the lawsuit being approved in its current form remain slim but as the today's dismissal was largely based on a technicality and given the Alphabet-owned firm's recent issues with privacy advocates, Google You Owe Us may still have a case if it reduces the scope of its lawsuit or at the very least divides it into several cases. The UK appellate process should see the final verdict on the matter given circa mid-2019.