Google loses UK appeal in Safari cookie tracking case, could face trial

Posted:
in Mac Software edited March 2015
The U.K.'s Court of Appeal has denied Google's request to block lawsuits from British consumers over the search giant's disregard for Safari privacy restrictions designed to prevent advertisers from tracking users.




"These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial," the Court said in its judgement, according to the BBC. "They concern what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature...about and associated with the claimants' internet use, and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months. The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused."

The case stems from 2012 allegations that Google intentionally bypassed Safari's default privacy settings, which restrict websites from setting cookies unless the user has interacted with those sites directly. Google skirted this limitation by amending its advertising code to submit an invisible form on behalf of the user -- without their consent -- thus allowing tracking cookies to be set.

Those allegations prompted a six-month investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which Google eventually settled. The $22.5 million fine levied by the FTC was the largest such sanction in the agency's history, and Google later agreed to pay a further $17 million in fines to settle cases in 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Google was able to avoid class-action lawsuits in the U.S., but its defense -- that consumers had not suffered monetary harm -- was not enough to evade British courts.

"The Court of Appeal has ensured Google cannot use its vast resources to evade English justice," claimant Judith Vidal-Hall said of the Court of Appeal's judgement. "Ordinary computer users like me will now have the right to hold this giant to account before the courts for its unacceptable, immoral and unjust actions."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 49
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 28,978member
    Good. Companies working around privacy rules. Particularly when they really amount to fraud, such as this really is, by pretending to be the user the self, is really egreous. I've been disappointed that the system here didn't take this to trial as well.
  • Reply 2 of 49

    LOL. I forgot all about this. I remember the Google shills trying to claim it was an "accident" as if the programming code necessary to do this just magically created itself out of thin air.

  • Reply 3 of 49
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 25,972member
    How would any person prove material harm from Google's actions? All that is provable is that Google violated Apple's security features and possible local laws? The likely outcome is a large monetary extraction from Google that will go right into the coffers of the government, to the benefit of no one but the government.
  • Reply 4 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 15,817member
    LOL. I forgot all about this. I remember the Google shills trying to claim it was an "accident" as if the programming code necessary to do this just magically created itself out of thin air.
    Yeah I don't think it was purely accidental either. Worse while Google was caught there are others that did so and may still.

    Note too that at least in the US is wasn't against the law to do so. Google got tagged by the FTC for "lying" about what Safari users needed to do to avoid it, not the fact it happened. Cookie and/or tracking settings are often ignored apparently, with many companies giving up entirely on the related "Do Not Track" notice.
  • Reply 5 of 49
    saareksaarek Posts: 978member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    How would any person prove material harm from Google's actions? All that is provable is that Google violated Apple's security features and possible local laws? The likely outcome is a large monetary extraction from Google that will go right into the coffers of the government, to the benefit of no one but the government.

     

    That's fine with me. At the end of the day if Google worries that they will be heavily fined for the breaking the law it might well put them off doing so in the first place.

     

    I don't mind that the UK Government get's paid.

  • Reply 6 of 49
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

     
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post



    LOL. I forgot all about this. I remember the Google shills trying to claim it was an "accident" as if the programming code necessary to do this just magically created itself out of thin air.


    Yeah I don't think it was purely accidental either. Worse while Google was caught there are others that did so and may still.

     

    Google still does some stuff I consider very shady. They even tricked me with their search links and I do everything I can to avoid click through ads, etc. But on their main search page the links to the content look like they go direct when you hover over them. On mouse down they change the link to a google link that captures the click and then redirects you. It is just so deceptive since they are showing you that the link is direct and hijacking it when you click it. It is easy to see this.

     

    1) Google search something.

     

    2) Hover over a link and it looks like it is direct. 

     

    3) Right click the link 

     

    4) Dismiss the context menu and hover over the link again. (Or you can copy Link from the menu and go paste it somewhere)

     

    You will see a nice google URL either way. The only reason to hijack the link on mouse down is to be deceptive. They show you the URL in the search result, so they cannot say it is for that.

  • Reply 7 of 49
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,380member
    How would any person prove material harm from Google's actions? All that is provable is that Google violated Apple's security features and possible local laws? The likely outcome is a large monetary extraction from Google that will go right into the coffers of the government, to the benefit of no one but the government.
    Huh? What exactly are you saying? What I read from your comment is that your understanding of 'government' is such that you disapprove so strongly that the prospect of some, or a substantial portion of, a fine levied against Google going to the government would be such a bad thing that you'd rather see the alleged crime go unpunished and thus the ethical questions the alleged crime raises be ignored to avoid this happening?
  • Reply 8 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 15,817member
    Google still does some stuff I consider very shady. They even tricked me with their search links and I do everything I can to avoid click through ads, etc. But on their main search page the links to the content look like they go direct when you hover over them. On mouse down they change the link to a google link that captures the click and then redirects you. It is just so deceptive since they are showing you that the link is direct and hijacking it when you click it. It is easy to see this.

    1) Google search something.

    2) Hover over a link and it looks like it is direct. 

    3) Right click the link 

    4) Dismiss the context menu and hover over the link again. (Or you can copy Link from the menu and go paste it somewhere)

    You will see a nice google URL either way. The only reason to hijack the link on mouse down is to be deceptive. They show you the URL in the search result, so they cannot say it is for that.

    Not entirely clear what you mean. I just did a sample search for "spices for chicken". Whether hovering, right-clicking or opening in a new window I see the same result. :???: If you mean the search result is logged well of course it is. Apple has desktop search tracking on by default too within Safari. If that's the issue it's easy to avoid or turn off entirely in your Google Search settings.

    Go to the web page https://history.google.com
    -Sign in to your Google account if you aren’t already signed in.
    -Click the gear icon in the upper right corner (example shown in figure on the right).
    -Choose “Settings”’
    the page that pops up has a button that says "Turn off". Click it. It's that easy.

    Want to get rid of whatever search history was already logged? That's just as easy. Click on the highlighted "delete" link in the sentence "You can also delete all past Google Search activity or remove particular items from your recent activity". In the resultant dialog box click "Delete All" if that's what you want or delete only selected items by clicking on the "recent activity" in that sentence if you want to keep some to make future searches more relevant or to quickly find a specific page you had already referenced.
  • Reply 9 of 49
    swissmac2swissmac2 Posts: 216member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    How would any person prove material harm from Google's actions? All that is provable is that Google violated Apple's security features and possible local laws? The likely outcome is a large monetary extraction from Google that will go right into the coffers of the government, to the benefit of no one but the government.



    You really have a strange view of the world. You do know the UK Government has NO shareholders, and that all money received by the Government means reduced taxes for EVERYONE? Are you saying you don't believe in Democracy either because the democratically elected Government doesn't do exactly what YOU alone want it to do? And as someone else already pointed out, you would rather a criminal got away with things rather than be prosecuted just because you don't like being fined for misdeeds because of who the money goes to? That is definitely "spoiled child" thinking.

  • Reply 10 of 49
    smiffy31smiffy31 Posts: 137member
    What he is saying is that the tooltip shows a link to the page you want, but the link itself is a link to google with a foreward to your page. The end result is the same.

    The result is that Google knows which links you have clicked on when viewing for a given search string. which they duly record for later searches.
  • Reply 11 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 15,817member
    smiffy31 wrote: »
    What he is saying is that the tooltip shows a link to the page you want, but the link itself is a link to google with a foreward to your page. The end result is the same.

    The result is that Google knows which links you have clicked on when viewing for a given search string. which they duly record for later searches.
    If you don't have any need to easily revisit a page or just don't want your searches noted for whatever reason then turn it off. It's simple. Follow the directions in my previous post. It really isn't all that hard to use the better search engine, Google Search, and still avoid tracking. I think a lot of folks don't ever take the time to look. perhaps preferring to complain about it rather than making any effort to change it.

    If it were really such a concern I can't imagine why someone wouldn't take the time to figure out how to modify it. A search that takes mere seconds would have found how to do it.
  • Reply 12 of 49

    I switched to DuckDuckGo some years back, and rarely miss Google Search.  DDG is more than sufficient, without the hassle of account login/management, history, etc.

     

    Having said that, I do turn to Google once in a blue moon (probably 0.5% of all my searches).

  • Reply 13 of 49
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,323member
    swissmac2 wrote: »

    You really have a strange view of the world. You do know the UK Government has NO shareholders, and that all money received by the Government means reduced taxes for EVERYONE? Are you saying you don't believe in Democracy either because the democratically elected Government doesn't do exactly what YOU alone want it to do? And as someone else already pointed out, you would rather a criminal got away with things rather than be prosecuted just because you don't like being fined for misdeeds because of who the money goes to? That is definitely "spoiled child" thinking.

    It doesn't reduce taxes, it just increased spending.

    Google: do no evil unless it benefits us.
  • Reply 14 of 49
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,027member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by paxman View Post





    Huh? What exactly are you saying? What I read from your comment is that your understanding of 'government' is such that you disapprove so strongly that the prospect of some, or a substantial portion of, a fine levied against Google going to the government would be such a bad thing that you'd rather see the alleged crime go unpunished and thus the ethical questions the alleged crime raises be ignored to avoid this happening?



    Actually, it's worse than that.   He seems to think that if the Government fines a company that there's no way any of that money would ever find its way into providing government services - as if it disappeared into the pockets of Government administrators.

     

    My belief is that sites should only be permitted to track their own cookies and not the cookies of other sites.   And one should clearly be able to opt in and out of tracking at all.

     

    We all paid a dear price when we refused the Netscape model of actually paying for the browser.   I'd gladly pay for the browser to avoid all the tracking and advertising. 

  • Reply 15 of 49

    I am glad that someone -- even if it's not the stupid US government -- is looking out for us.

     

    I truly wish the bozos in DC would just shut shop and go away.

  • Reply 16 of 49

    Gatorguy alert!

     

    :D

  • Reply 17 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 15,817member
    zoetmb wrote: »

    Actually, it's worse than that.   He seems to think that if the Government fines a company that there's no way any of that money would ever find its way into providing government services - as if it disappeared into the pockets of Government administrators.

    My belief is that sites should only be permitted to track their own cookies and not the cookies of other sites.   And one should clearly be able to opt in and out of tracking at all.

    We all paid a dear price when we refused the Netscape model of actually paying for the browser.   I'd gladly pay for the browser to avoid all the tracking and advertising. 
    Cookies are the least of your concerns. What you should have a way to block are things no one talks about like web beacons, flash cookies and pixel tags. Even Apple makes liberal use of those tracking mechanisms. Cookies are old school and a company claiming they don't improperly use them (perhaps to comply with EU directives) may be using using misdirection. It doesn't mean the users web travels aren't being noted, it's just that common cookies aren't being used to do so.

    Turn off cookies in in your favorite browser? Ok, fine. How do you turn off tags? Worse even is that cookies don't have any software embedded, loading it without your knowledge. Not so with some of these other trackers.
  • Reply 18 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 15,817member
    Gatorguy alert!

    :D
    Someone should help users understand the web tracking mechanisms and how they might be avoided, and not just with Google services either. As I don't recall you or some of the other regulars bothering to do so (perhaps you have no idea how to) I'm taking the time to do what someone else could have done.
  • Reply 19 of 49
    roakeroake Posts: 440member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SwissMac2 View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    How would any person prove material harm from Google's actions? All that is provable is that Google violated Apple's security features and possible local laws? The likely outcome is a large monetary extraction from Google that will go right into the coffers of the government, to the benefit of no one but the government.



    You really have a strange view of the world. You do know the UK Government has NO shareholders, and that all money received by the Government means reduced taxes for EVERYONE? Are you saying you don't believe in Democracy either because the democratically elected Government doesn't do exactly what YOU alone want it to do? And as someone else already pointed out, you would rather a criminal got away with things rather than be prosecuted just because you don't like being fined for misdeeds because of who the money goes to? That is definitely "spoiled child" thinking.


     

    HAHAHAHA aahahaha!  You seem to be stating that government actually passes along money they receive in the form of reducing what citizens pay.  haha!  Wow!  I'm really LOL.   Look, I hate to burst your idealistic bubble, but governments getting money is like a wolf getting a taste of blood.  They sure as hell don't eat less just because they got a taste.

     

    I'm all for Google getting spanked for the slimy stuff it does.  But don't delude yourself that it's somehow going to result in reduced taxation (or any other financial boon) for citizens.  The more they get, they more they expect.  

  • Reply 20 of 49
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 482member

    fucking awesome!

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