London’s High Court on Monday blocked a collective lawsuit against Google over claims the search firm had collected sensitive data from over 4 million iPhone users.
The claimants had said Google (GOOGL.O) had illegally accessed details of iPhone users’ internet browsing data by bypassing privacy settings on the Safari browser between June 2011 and February 2012.
Consumer activist Richard Lloyd, who originated the collective lawsuit, estimated approximately 4.5 million iPhone users had been affected by Google’s “Safari Workaround.” The suit sought several hundred dollars in damages for each affected individual, totaling $1.3 million in damages.
Google had argued that the mass case brought by Lloyd was not appropriate and should not proceed.
Although the court blocked the lawsuit, the court agreed the Safari Workaround “was wrongful.”
“There is no dispute that it is arguable that Google’s alleged role in the collection, collation, and use of data obtained via the Safari Workaround was wrongful, and a breach of duty,” the judge, Mark Warby, said in his ruling.
Lloyd was originally seeking 3.2 billion pounds ($4.3 billion), but that had since been cut to 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion).
The case, filed in November 2017, was the first collective action filed in the U.K. against a leading tech firm over the misuse of user data.
Lloyd was, understandably, disappointed in Monday’s ruling.
“Today’s judgment is extremely disappointing and effectively leaves millions of people without any practical way to seek redress and compensation when their personal data has been misused,” Lloyd said in a statement.
“Google’s business model is based on using personal data to target adverts to consumers and they must ask permission before using this data. The court accepted that people did not give permission in this case yet slammed the door shut on holding Google to account.”
The “Safari Workaround” was developed by Google to get around Safari’s blocking of several types of tracking. Google added code to some of its ads that made the browser think a user was submitting an invisible form to Google, allowing the installation of a tracking cookie on the user’s device.
When this tactic was revealed in a report by the Wall Street Journal, The U.S. Federal Trade Commission forced the company to pay a record $22.5 million fine for using the tactic.