‘Cookiegate’, exposed by the Wall Street Journal in 2012, involved Google using a code to bypass the privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser. They were then able to track the web browsing habits of people who had previously blocked that kind of monitoring. Google disabled the code when it was exposed by the Wall Street Journal and, in the US, they paid $22.5 million to settle the case with the Federal Trade Commission.
Google had previously attempted to block the action in the UK, claiming that a case couldn’t be brought forward because consumers hadn’t suffered any financial harm. However, the UK court observed that consumers had “suffered damage to personal dignity, autonomy and integrity and have been caused anxiety and distress.” They also said that Google should have been aware that their data collection exceeded what should have been expected under their privacy policies.
Although the most high profile, Google wasn’t the only company involved in the scandal. A number of ad networks bypassed Safari’s ‘no third party cookies’ default setting. At the time, Google said that their use of the code was simply to get their ‘+1’ buttons to work on iOS.
Although the courts decision has made cases against Google more likely, it’s not yet known what damages UK consumers will receive should they pursue legal action against the firm.
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