Google branded "arrogant and immoral" for dodging UK lawsuit

Web giant Google is today trying to dismiss a court case brought against it by a pressure group of concerned British Internet users, who have accused the company of collecting large amounts of personal data without their consent.

The company claims that the claim should not be heard by a UK court, but should be filed as a lawsuit in the state of California, where Google is headquartered. The company is expected to argue today that the case does not meet the standard necessary to be heard at the high court in London.

Google has got into trouble in the past for collecting data from its users. In August it was hit with a record $22.5 million (£13.8 million) fine in the US after being found guilty of circumventing security settings on the iPad, iPhone, Mac and Safari browser in order to collect user data for advertising.

The company paid out a further $17 million (£10.5 million) last month in order to settle another claim, although Google claims that the plaintiffs suffered no actual harm when they were mistakenly tracked.

The case being brought today is the first of its kind to be brought against the web giant in the UK, and is viewed as a test case for dozens of other claims waiting in the wings.

"If consumers are based in the UK and English laws are abused, the perpetrator must be held to account here, not in a jurisdiction that might suit them better," said Judith Vidal-Hall, one of the claimants. "Google's approach that British consumers should travel all the way to California to seek redress for its wrongdoings is arrogant, immoral and a disgrace."

In its submission to the High Court, Google's team of lawyers insisted that any information gleaned from the search engine is not "private or confidential," meaning that it has no obligation under data protection laws. Most of the other major Internet companies, such as Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft, all offer services through European bases, ensuring that there's some degree of protection for users under EU privacy laws.

Dan Tench, a solicitor from the law firm Olswang, which is bringing the claim forward, warned that "Google may weave complex legal arguments about why the case should not be heard here, but they have a legal and moral duty to users on this side of the Atlantic not to abuse their wishes. Google must be held to account here, even though it would prefer to ignore England."

But Google is adamant that the case has no value. A spokesperson for the company said: "A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety two months ago in the US. We're asking the court to re-examine whether this case meets the standards required in the UK for a case like this to go to trial."

The case is being brought two weeks after claims from consumers that Apple had violated its privacy policy were dismissed from court due to a lack of evidence.

Image: Flickr (ell brown)