Mass action against Google over iPhone data blocked by London court

Google has been accused of illegally accessing details of iPhone users’ internet browsing data by bypassing privacy settings on the Safari browser between June 2011 and February 2012. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2018

Mass action against Google over iPhone data blocked by London court

  • Google had argued the mass case brought by Richard Lloyd, the only named claimant, was not appropriate and should not proceed

LONDON: London’s High Court on Monday blocked an attempt to bring legal action against Alphabet Inc’s Google over claims it had collected sensitive data from more than 4 million iPhone users although it said the company’s actions had been “wrongful.”
The claimants had said Google had illegally accessed details of iPhone users’ Internet browsing data by bypassing privacy settings on the Safari browser between June 2011 and February 2012.
Richard Lloyd, a consumer activist who was behind the “Google You Owe Us” court challenge, had estimated that about 4.5 million people had been affected by the “Safari Workaround” and wanted the tech giant to pay out several hundred dollars in damages to each affected individual.
Google had argued the mass case brought by Lloyd, the only named claimant, was not appropriate and should not proceed.
“There is no dispute that it is arguable that Google’s alleged role in the collection, collation, and use of data obtained via the Safari Workaround was wrongful, and a breach of duty,” the judge, Mark Warby, said in his ruling.
However, he said the case brought by Lloyd did not support the contention that he and those he represented had suffered “damage” as specified by Britain’s Data Protection Act nor could the court allow such representative action to go ahead.
In his ruling, he said the main beneficiaries of the claim would have been those who funded it and the lawyers.
Lloyd said his group, to which 20,000 people had signed up to, would seek permission to appeal the decision.
“Today’s judgment is extremely disappointing and effectively leaves millions of people without any practical way to seek redress and compensation when their personal data has been misused,” he said in a statement.
“Google’s business model is based on using personal data to target adverts to consumers and they must ask permission before using this data. The court accepted that people did not give permission in this case yet slammed the door shut on holding Google to account.”
A Google spokeswoman said: “The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. This claim is without merit, and we’re pleased the Court has dismissed it.”
Google remains under pressure from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices in the United States, where it has acknowledged making mistakes in the past.
In 2012, it agreed to pay a then-record civil penalty of $22.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it misrepresented to Apple Safari Internet browser users that it would not place tracking “cookies” or serve them targeted ads.


Lebanon plans to charge for WhatsApp calls -minister

Updated 17 October 2019

Lebanon plans to charge for WhatsApp calls -minister

  • Jamal al-Jarrah said that cabinet had agreed a charge of 20 cents per day for calls used by applications including Whatsapp, Facebook calls and FaceTime
  • The fee could potentially bring in up to $250 million in annual revenues from the country's estimated 3.5 million VoIP users

BEIRUT: Lebanon's cabinet has agreed to impose a fee on calls over WhatsApp and other similar applications, as part of efforts to raise revenues in the country's 2020 draft budget, a minister said on Thursday.
Lebanon has one of the world's highest debt burdens, low growth and crumbling infrastructure and is facing strains in its financial system from a slowdown in capital inflows. The government has declared a state of "economic emergency" and promised steps to ward off a crisis.
Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said on Thursday that cabinet had agreed a charge of 20 cents per day for calls via voice over internet protocol (VoIP), used by applications including Facebook-owned Whatsapp, Facebook calls and FaceTime.
The fee could potentially bring in up to $250 million in annual revenues from the country's estimated 3.5 million VoIP users.
The country has only two service providers, both state-owned, and some of the most costly mobile rates in the region.
Lebanese TV channels cited Telecoms Minister Mohamed Choucair as saying the fee would "not be applied without something in return" which he would announce next week.
Finance Mininster Ali Hassan Khalil said last month there were no new taxes or fees in the draft 2020 budget he sent to cabinet.
Lebanon is under pressure to approve the 2020 budget to unlock some $11 billion pledged at a donor conference last year, conditional on fiscal and other reforms.
Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has said the government would work to further reduce the 2020 budget deficit.
Foreign allies are not yet fully convinced the Lebanese government is serious about reforms, and a French envoy last month criticised the pace of work.
The government only approved the 2019 budget halfway through this year. Lebanon had until 2017 had gone 12 years without a budget.
Ahead of a cabinet session on Thursday, Jarrah said ministers would discuss a proposal to raise value-added tax by 2 percentage points in 2021 and then another 2 percentage points in 2022, until it reaches 15%.
After ministers agree the 2020 draft budget, they must send it to parliament for approval.