A Court of Appeal judgment today clarified two aspects of the law surrounding the misuse of private information, opening the way for a case against internet giant Google to be heard in England and Wales.
The Master of the rolls and Lady Justice Sharp were giving judgment in Google v Judith Vidal-Hall, Robert Hann and Marc Bradshaw.
The case was originally brought by three claimants who browsed the web through Apple's Safari software, which collected data about their browsing habits without their knowledge or consent.
They began proceedings in June 2013, claiming damages for misuse of private information and breach of confidence and seeking compensation under section 13 of the Data Protection Act.
They sought permission to make the claim out of jurisdiction under the Civil Procedure Rules gateways for injunctions and torts. Google, which is registered in Delaware, US, and has its principal place of business in California, argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to try the claims.
In January last year, Mr Justice Tugendhat in the High Court ruled that misuse of private information was a tort and the claim could be heard in England.
Google appealed on the grounds that the claimants had suffered no financial harm. It had previously argued that any case be heard in California, as most of the relevant documents would be there.
Today's judgment agrees that the misuse of private information is a tort for the purpose of the rules providing for service out of jurisdiction.
It also concludes that compensation could be recoverable under the Data Protection Act. This decision was based on case law surrounding Article 23 of the European Data Protection Directive, which the act implemented in UK law.
Emma Cross, associate at international firm Olswang, who represented the claimants, said: 'This judgment provides welcome clarification on two related, but distinct, areas of law.
'It will be interesting to monitor how it is used in the field of privacy law going forward and whether claimants with a claim that falls under the tort of misuse of private information will also end up bringing it under the Data Protection Act, given that the hurdle of pecuniary loss has been lifted.'
Google said it was disappointed with the court's decision.