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The Week Ahead Europe: UK High Court blocks £3B suit against Google

The U.K. High Court on Oct. 8 blocked legal action against Alphabet Inc. over claims it illegally collected and used the internet browsing data of 4.4 million iPhone users in England and Wales between June 2011 and February 2012.

The case, brought by campaign group Google You Owe Us, argues that Google LLC was in breach of U.K. data protection laws and hoped to win compensation worth between £1 billion and £3 billion.

The group claims Alphabet bypassed default privacy settings on users' iPhones and used advertising cookies to unlawfully harvest personal data, for its DoubleClick advertising network, which enables advertisers to target and tailor adverts to consumers. This took place without the users' knowledge or consent, the case claimed. The data concerned included users' location, online browsing habits, as well as their race or ethnicity, social class, political and religious views, age, health, gender, sexuality and financial position.

Meanwhile, the ruling said Google described the claim as a "contrived and illegitimate attempt to shoe-horn a novel 'opt-out class action' into the representative action procedure."

The judge, Mr. Justice Warby, said the case was too "generic" and had failed to meet the condition of having a "reasonable prospect of success," which is one of the requirements for serving proceedings on a foreign defendant based outside of the legal jurisdiction. He also said there was no clear case for any damage caused by Google's activities. According to the ruling, it remains an open question whether the legal action taken against Google "has shown, or presented a good arguable case, that the conduct complained of did cause or involve anything that is properly characterised as ['damage'], for which compensation is recoverable."

In a tweet, Richard Lloyd, the case's representative claimant called the ruling "an analogue decision in a digital age."

"Today's judgment in the [Google] mass claim case is extremely disappointing and leaves millions of people without any practical way to seek redress when their personal data has been misused," he said.

Even so, the judge said that in light of regulatory responses to the breach, further penalties in the form of a class action for compensation "based on an artificial notion of 'damage'" is not the remedy.

Google faced similar charges from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2012 and agreed to pay a $22.5 million civil penalty. It paid a further $17 million in consumer-led legal action.

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Europe:
Oct. 8-9 The Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union to kick off a two-day debate exploring the key challenges for Europe's cultural, media and creative sectors in the digital age. Speakers include representatives from the Facebook Inc., Netflix Inc. and SoundCloud Ltd.
Oct. 11 The European Commission to host a conference on market developments in the collaborative economy, as well as moves toward policy and regulation in Brussels, Belgium. Speakers include representatives from ride-sharing companies giant Uber Technologies Inc. and carpooling company BlaBlaCar
United Kingdom:
Oct. 8 Alphabet to hear the U.K. High Court ruling on claims it illegally harvested the internet browsing data of millions of iPhone users in England and Wales between June 2011 and February 2012
Oct. 9

The House of Lords Communications Committee will take evidence from representatives of Ofcom, the U.K.'s communications regulator, and the Competition and Markets Authority or CMA, as part of its inquiry into internet regulation. Speakers include Ofcom's group director for content and media policy, Kevin Bakhurst, and Ofcom's group director for strategy and research, Yih-Choung Teh. The CMA's CEO Andrea Coscelli and its director for competition and markets policy, Simon Constantine, will also give evidence

Oct. 10 U.K. Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to hold an evidence session on how to support the country's live music industry and its venues. Witnesses include Tom Kiehl, director of government and public affairs at lobbying group U.K. Music and Ben Lovett, member of British band Mumford and Sons and founder of Omeara, a live music venue
Industry events:
Oct. 9

Amazon.com Inc.'s chief technology officer among the speakers at the 'WIRED Smarter' conference in London, on integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into leadership and business strategy

Oct. 10-11 World Summit AI, an annual event on artificial intelligence to take place in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Oct. 10-11 Festival of Marketing, an event dedicated to the marketing industry, to take place in London

Stories of note:

Irish Data Protection Commission investigating Facebook data breach

Facebook data breach could affect up to 5 million European users

Facebook 'security issue' affects almost 50 million accounts

Report: EU could hit Facebook with $1.63B fine over data breach

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