Access to justice / Privacy and mass surveillance


Posted on 10 Nov 2021

Liberty, Inclusion London and Coram Children’s Legal Centre have called for privacy rights, data protection and access to justice to be equally available to everyone, after a landmark court ruling.

Today, Wednesday 10 November, the Supreme Court overturned a previous ruling and found that four million victims of alleged breaches of data protection laws by Google cannot bring a joint – “representative” – claim for compensation.

In a case brought by an individual claimant, Mr Lloyd, on behalf of approximately four million iPhone users, the Court of Appeal said in 2019 that the victims of alleged breaches of data protection laws should be able to bring a joint claim to seek compensation.

Lloyd also argued that loss of control of personal data is important – and merits compensation – regardless of whether or not “distress” is caused by a data breach.

The Supreme Court today ruled that individuals must suffer financial loss or distress to receive compensation, and Lloyd could not bring a representative action because the damage caused to each person must be assessed individually.

At the Supreme Court earlier this year, Liberty, Inclusion London and Coram Children’s Legal Centre filed a joint intervention to argue that everyone should be able to seek justice if a company or public body breaches their data rights – whether or not they felt distress due to the breach. The groups argued that some people, such as young children and some disabled people, might not feel or show “distress” in the context of a data breach in the same way as other people, but should still be able to obtain justice.

The charities also argued that it is important for the principle of access to justice that breaches of our data rights can be challenged through representative actions, whereby a legal claim can be started by on behalf of many people – overcoming barriers such as cost that might prevent individual claims.

Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said: “We all deserve the right to seek justice when our privacy and dignity are undermined. Children and disabled people must have the same right to data protection and privacy as anyone else.

“It is disappointing that this decision does not go as far as it could in making access to justice more real for those of us who suffer from data breaches but face overwhelming hurdles to seek compensation.

“We all have the right to privacy – and if that right is undermined through a data breach, we should all be able to seek justice.”

Rosalyn Akar Grams, Managing Director of Legal Practice and Children’s Rights at Coram, said: “We are disappointed by today’s judgement and specifically the lack of consideration of the position of children set out in the arguments we put forward. Children’s lives are increasingly impacted by the digital world and it is vital that their rights to data protection and privacy are protected.

“We will continue to advocate for their rights to redress and compensation when their data rights are breached regardless of whether they experience distress as a result of that breach.”

Svetlana Kotova, Director of Campaigns and Justice at Inclusion London said: “Disabled people face significant barriers with Access to Justice.  We are disappointed that today’s judgment did not consider or address those barriers.  We are grateful for the opportunity to raise those issues and we will continue fighting to ensure Disabled people can seek justice when their data rights were breached.”

Dan Squires QC (Matrix Chambers), Aidan Wills (Matrix Chambers) and Tim James-Matthews (Matrix Chambers) acted for Liberty, Coram and Inclusion London.

Contact the Liberty press office on 07973 831 128 or

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