London's High Court on Monday blocked an attempt to bring legal action against Google over claims it had collected sensitive data from more than 4 million iPhone users.
The legal case was mounted by a group called 'Google You Owe Us,' led by former Which director Richard Lloyd. The claimants had said Google had illegally accessed details of iPhone users' internet browsing data by bypassing privacy settings on the Safari browser between June 2011 and February 2012.
Specifically, the case revolved around how Google used what are known as cookies - small computer text files that log information as people browse the web and use online services.
The complaint alleged that the cookies were used by Google to track people and get around settings on Apple's Safari browser that blocked such monitoring.
Richard Lloyd had estimated that about 4.5 million people had been affected by the "Safari Workaround" and wanted the tech giant to pay out several hundred dollars in damages to each affected individual.
Google had argued the mass case brought by Lloyd, the only named claimant, was not appropriate and should not proceed.
"There is no dispute that it is arguable that Google's alleged role in the collection, collation, and use of data obtained via the Safari Workaround was wrongful, and a breach of duty," the judge, Mark Warby, said in his ruling.
However, he said the case brought by Lloyd did not support the contention that he and those he represented had suffered "damage" as specified by Britain's Data Protection Act nor could the court allow such representative action to go ahead.
In his ruling, he said the main beneficiaries of the claim would have been those who funded it and the lawyers.
"Today's judgment is extremely disappointing and effectively leaves millions of people without any practical way to seek redress and compensation when their personal data has been misused," Lloyd said in a statement.
"The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. This claim is without merit, and we're pleased the Court has dismissed it,| Google said.
Google remains under pressure from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices in the United States.