• Robert Spicer

Google data protection case

SUPREME COURT

Google data protection case

Case Lloyd v Google LLC [2021] UKSC 50

Facts The issue in the appeal was whether L could bring a claim against Google in a representative capacity. L sought compensation under section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998 for damage suffered by Apple iPhone users as a result of unlawful processing by Google of personal data. L alleged that in 2011 and 2012, Google secretly tracked the internet activity of 4 million internet users and used the data collected without the users’ consent for commercial purposes, by enabling advertisers to target advertisements at users based on their browsing history.

L relied on the Civil Procedure Rules, specifically a rule which allows claim to be brought by representatives of others who have the same interest in the claim. L suggested a claim for £750 for each person which would have resulted in a total of £3billion.

Google is incorporated in the United States. This meant that L needed the permission of the court to serve proceedings outside the jurisdiction. Google opposed the application on the following grounds:

· Damages could not be awarded under the Act of 1998 without proof that an individual had suffered financial loss or distress;

· The claim was not suitable to proceed as a representative action/

At first instance, the matter was decided in favour of Google. On appeal, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. Google then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Decision 1. The appeal was allowed.

2. The claim was founded on section 13 of the 1998 Act which states, in summary, that an individual who suffers damage by any contravention by a data controller of the requirements of the Act is entitled to compensation. “Damage” means material damage, for example financial loss, or mental distress distinct from, and caused by, unlawful processing of personal data, and not to unlawful processing itself.

3. It is necessary, in order to recover compensation, to prove what unlawful processing relating to a given individual occurred.

4. The attempt to recover compensation without proving either what unlawful processing occurred in the case of any individual, or that any individual suffered material damage or mental distress as a result of unlawful processing, was unsustainable.

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