Google says it is not answerable in the UK in Safari cookies privacy suit

The company says plaintiffs should sue in California

Google has told British consumers in a privacy claim that it does not have to answer to English courts and U.K. privacy laws don't apply to it, according to the law firm for the plaintiffs.

Legal documents filed by the Internet company show that Google will contest the right of Safari users in the U.K. to bring a case in the country where they live and use Google's service, the law firm Olswang said in a statement on Sunday.

The Internet company refused to accept service of the lawsuit in the U.K., instead forcing the plaintiffs to serve the company in California, the law firm added.

The lawsuit is still in early days, and Google is expected to argue that its customer-facing services in the U.K. are provided out of the U.S.

A group of Internet users in the U.K. said in January they were seeking damages, disclosure and an apology from Google for its alleged undermining of the security settings on Apple's Safari browser to track online usage covertly.

Olswang initiated the legal action on the behalf of three claimants backed by a campaign called "Safari Users Against Google's Secret Tracking."

It followed an announcement in August last year by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that Google agreed to pay a US$22.5 million civil penalty to settle charges that it misrepresented to users of Safari that it would not place tracking cookies or serve targeted ads to those users, violating an earlier privacy settlement between the company and the FTC.

The FTC alleged that Google placed advertising tracking cookies on consumers' computers, in many cases by circumventing Safari's default cookie-blocking setting. Google denied any wrongdoing.

The filing by Google is not public. Google did not comment.

"It seems to us absurd to suggest that consumers can't bring a claim against a company which is operating in the U.K. and is even constructing a $1 billion headquarters in London," Marc Bradshaw, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in the statement.

"I argued just over a year ago that Google should be forced to answer to the courts in the jurisdiction where a complaint is filed especially if they have an office there and that it is a mockery of our judicial system if they are permitted to evade judicial process by hiding behind a parent company in California," said privacy advocate Alexander Hanff in a blog post on Sunday.

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John Ribeiro

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