This case involves claims against Google for breach of privacy related to its collection of browser-generated information (“BGI”) from Safari users for advertising purposes. According to the UK court, Google used the two elements of BGI, detailed browsing history and information from a cookie that links browsing history to individual users, to single out individual users. The claim alleges that Google found a way to avoid the Safari web browser’s default privacy settings in order to install cookies that monitor which websites they visit to gather their personal data such as social class and race, all without the user’s knowledge.
In dismissing Google’s appeal, the court in Google Inc. v. Vidal-Hall & Ors  EWCA Civ 311, found that misuse of private information is a tort for the purpose of the rules for service outside the jurisdiction. The court allowed the claim to proceed even though the plaintiff did not allege any pecuniary loss. Google also lost its bid to have the claim dismissed on the basis that the US was the proper jurisdiction.
The decision has implications well beyond the UK. Privacy issues are of increasing concern to Canadians (see our blog: http://www.wortzmans.com/2015/03/18/is-your-private-information-really-private/). The Google case is an example of how the concept of ‘personal information’ is constantly evolving in a world where technology rapidly advances. What many Canadians consider private, may very well not be treated as such by the technology companies whose tools we use daily. The nature of BGI, whether it is personal data, and how tech companies like Google use that information raise a myriad of privacy issues for Canadians.
Plenty to keep Canada’s Privacy Commissioners busy.
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