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Published 10 July 2014
This month we have moved another step forward in allowing claims for breach of data protection losses where there is little if any economic loss to the claimant. In January this year we reported on the case of Vidal Hall and others v Google Inc where the High Court ruled that three individuals resident in England may bring a claim against Google Inc in the English courts for misuse of their private information and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 ("DPA") arising from Google's use of the Double Click cookie to target marketing to web users. In deciding whether their claim could be heard in the English courts, the High Court's judgment provided interesting reading for privacy professionals across the UK in its discussion on whether there was an arguable case to be heard.
Significantly, it recognised a tort of "misuse of private information" as a separate cause of action from breach of the DPA and breach of confidence. It also opened up the potential for claims for breaches of privacy (whether under this tort or the DPA) to be brought for distress alone without having to first prove a financial loss. Currently very few civil claims are brought in the UK because it is very difficult to show any financial loss resulting from a privacy breach and therefore advance a claim. Google are currently in the course of appealing this decision (whilst juggling the tens of thousands of right to be forgotten requests flooding in daily – it's not really Google's year in terms of privacy related actions!).
This month in the High Court in AB v Ministry of Justice, a claimant was awarded nominal damages of £1 for a breach of the DPA, then issued an additional £2,250 as further compensation for distress arising from the delays in responding to a subject access request in time. Whether or not the Google and Vidal Hall case progresses to open the floodgates for privacy claims in the UK, this latest High Court case is an illustration that a court will seek to find an economic loss, however minimal, in order to impose a more substantial damages award for distress.
All this and more in this month's update. Colleagues can sign up to the alerter here.
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