Google was forced to pay $22.5 Million to settle a case against the US FTC concerning the cookie-privacy settings, which were circumvented in the Safari browser. This was a complicated and well documented case which cost Google a significant amount of time and money, as well as required them to change how they used cookies in some cases. Undoubtedly emboldened by the results of the case, Apple users in the UK have filed a civil lawsuit in the UK using the same facts.
In a surprising move by Google’s legal team, they responded by saying the case should be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. They argued that Google is not subject to UK privacy laws, and that the plaintiffs should have to come to California to re-file. Google, which is based in California, is suggesting that even though they do business in the UK, they shouldn’t have to be subject to the laws of that country.
This goes against the way international law has worked for many years, and if the UK courts accept their request (which seems exceedingly unlikely), it would be a president that could be used in thousands of cases each year. What it would essentially do is show that a company is only required to follow the laws of the territory where it is based out of, not the laws of the areas it does business in. This odd ‘corporate diplomatic immunity’ would undoubtedly have very long reaching consequences.
What would happen if, for example, Google moved their headquarters to a country which allowed corporate espionage or other direct spying on customers (even more than is allowed in the US that is). Countless other examples of why this is not the way international corporate law should work can be thought of, but when it comes to the legal system, you never know what is going to happen.
It certainly seems improbable that the UK courts would give up jurisdiction in this case, but it will be something everyone doing business online will want to keep their eyes on. Even if the UK rejects this request by Google, it will make for an interesting response by the courts.
What do you think about this case? Is Google doing anything but stalling for time, or trying to cost the plaintiff money with these legal antics? Please, comment below.