Google wants Safari snooping case heard overseas, claims lawyer

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Google is allegedly set to contest the rights of UK Apple users to bring a case against the firm in this country, because it is exempt from UK privacy laws.

That's according to UK law firm Olswang, who is representing a group of UK Apple users who have accused the search giant of monitoring their internet habits via the Safari browser.

As reported by IT Pro back in January, Google is alleged to have circumnavigated Apple's security controls and privacy settings to deposit cookies on people's computers without their consent. These are then thought to have been used to deliver user-targeted advertisements.

Olswang issued a statement at the time claiming the actions breached the "confidence and privacy" of its clients, who are now seeking damages and an apology from Google.

The claim has reportedly been filed by three people, whose actions have also won the backing of campaign group Safari Users Against Google's Secret Tracking.

However, Olswang has released a statement this week claiming Google has filed legal documents stating it has no case to answer in the English court, and has refused to accept service of the lawsuit in the UK.

If that is the case, the claimants may be forced to serve papers to the company in California.

The Olswang statement also suggests Google has dismissed the case, claiming browsing habits of internet users are "not protected as personal information."

IT Pro contacted Google to confirm the details of Olswang's statement, but was told the firm has no comment to make at this time.

Olswang is now reportedly seeking a hearing to discuss whether or not Google has a case to answer in the UK, which in turn will determine how the case proceeds.

In a BBC News report, Daniel Tench, the lawyer responsible for overseeing the case, said if Google gets its way, the ruling could hold back others from launching similar claims against overseas tech firms.

"I do find it surprising that Google is seriously trying to content that there is no exception to privacy in one's history of internet usage," he said.

Judith Vidal-Hall, one of the claimants, expressed disappointment at Google's alleged stance.

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

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.