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Tech titans on alert over £750m court battle for Google

Google joining forces with tech rivals to try to block £750m claim that could trigger raft of class action cases against social media giants

Google will join forces with tech rivals this week to try to block a £750million claim that could trigger a raft of class action cases against social media giants. 

The company will appear in the Supreme Court to argue that former Which? director Richard Lloyd should not be allowed to sue it for allegedly illegally tracking the internet habits of 4.4 million iPhone users in 2011 and 2012. Facebook, YouTube and TikTok are facing similar court cases over the alleged misuse of personal data. 

Lloyd launched a class action case against Google in 2017 in an attempt to win damages for every iPhone user allegedly affected. He claims Google bypassed privacy settings to track users’ internet histories. 

Battle: Google has drafted in powerful tech lobbyists that also represent companies including Facebook and Twitter

Google has tried to stop the case by arguing that each iPhone user should have to bring an individual claim. Google succeeded in the High Court, but the Court of Appeal allowed the case to go forward. 

The company has now drafted in powerful tech lobbyists that also represent companies including Facebook and Twitter. The court will hear statements from both Tech UK and the Internet Association – an influential group working for the tech giants in Washington. 

Lloyd’s team will be supported by statements from UK data regulator the Information Commissioner and charities that promote children’s rights and access to justice. 

‘I’ve rarely seen such a big opportunity to hold one of the world’s most powerful companies to account,’ said Lloyd. ‘The law is there to stop businesses misusing millions of consumers’ personal data, but we need the means to exercise our legal rights.’ 

Tech giants face paying out hundreds of millions of pounds in damages in similar claims if the Supreme Court allows class action cases to go ahead. There are at least five class action cases resting on the judgment. Facebook faces two cases over its Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2015. Lawyers have also filed cases against YouTube, TikTok and Marriott hotels. 

Emily Cox, head of media disputes at Stewarts law firm, said: ‘We don’t have a class action system in the UK like there is in the US. People have to issue their own claim. This situation is exciting because it might change that.’ 

A Google spokesman said: ‘These claims relate to events that took place a decade ago and that we addressed at the time. We look forward to making our case in court.’ 

It comes after the owner of The Mail on Sunday launched a legal action against Google over claims it exploits its dominance in digital advertising. The parent company of MailOnline and DailyMail.com said the tech giant ‘manipulates’ search results to ‘punish publishers’. Google called the claims ‘completely inaccurate’.

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