Google claims UK law has no power over company in privacy case

Google has argued that as an American company, it does not have to answer to British laws in an ongoing UK privacy case.

The claim against Google is being pursued by at least 10 British people who say that the search company illegally circumvented the security settings on Apple's Safari web browser to track their web usage on iPhone, iPad and Mac.

However in a submission to the High Court, Google has said that the British legal system has "no jurisdiction" to hear the case as the company's consumer services are provided by US registered Google Inc based in Silicon Valley, and not Google UK.

The bold claim has left those pursuing the case, along with privacy campaigners, outraged. Google has already been fined $22.5million (£14.4million) by regulators in the US for the same practice.

The company was found to be working round a Safari privacy setting to continue tracking users' web activity through cookies, despite them opting to block collection of the data.

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: "It is deeply worrying for a company with millions of British users to be brazenly saying they do not regard themselves bound by UK law.

"Regulators need to step up and ensure that when citizens are illegally tracked against their wishes, the companies riding roughshod over their privacy is held to account."

Claimant Marc Bradshaw added: "It seems absurd to suggest that consumers can't bring a claim against a company which is operating in the UK and is even constructing a $1 billion headquarters in London."

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the UK's data protection regulator, told Google in July that the company's privacy policy breaches the UK data protection act.

Campaigners have said that taking this case up with the ICO would be ineffective as the maximum fine the regulator could impose on Google is just £500,000.