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Under The Radar – 12 November

This week, we discuss:

  1. Google Wins Supreme Court Appeal

  2. Bolsonaro Gets Desperate

  3. Post-Brexit Shake-Up for Financial Regulation

UK Supreme Court Blocks $4.3bn Class Action Against Google

What Happened? The UK Supreme Court has rejected a claim that sought £3.2bn in damages from Google over allegations that the company had illegally tracked the personal information of millions of iPhone users. What does it mean?

In what is being described as one of the most significant legal cases in recent years, Richard Lloyd had sued Google for using cookies to collect data on health, race, ethnicity, sexuality and finance through Apple’s Safari web browser, even when users had opted for the “do not track” privacy setting. The former Which? director was seeking £750 each for 4.4 million affected users, claiming that Google’s tracking caused them financial damage and mental distress.  But Google won the appeal, with the judge ruling that the claimant had failed to prove that damage had been caused to individuals by the collection of their data. However, the judgement added that the case had a “real chance of success” if pursued by the claimant as an individual, instead of as a class action.  Google’s lawyers argued that the ruling could “open the floodgates” to vast claims brought on behalf of millions of people against companies over how they handle people’s data. And victory in the UK’s first such data privacy case is likely to inform a series of similar cases waiting to be heard against other tech giants, including Facebook and TikTok. This week’s ruling marks an interesting development in recent criticism we have seen levelled against big tech companies, particularly in relation to their handling of private data. Google may have won this battle, but the litigation war is only just beginning. 

Bolsonaro Gets Desperate

What happened? Brazil’s far-right populist president Jair Bolsonaro joined the centre-right Liberal Party (or PL) in an effort to fortify his position ahead of next year’s presidential election in the country. And in another sign of re-election nerves, Bolsonaro announced a new social welfare scheme for one of the world’s worst Covid-hit countries.

What does this mean?

Bolsonaro joining the Liberals (who are a member of the Centrao group) suggests he is shifting his political strategy away from his 2018 platform, where he was running as an anti-establishment candidate.

He has been without a political home since he quit the Social Liberal Party amid a dispute with its leadership over funding and regional nominations. But the Liberal Party, along with the Centrao group, have been Bolsonaro’s allies, protecting him from impeachment and voting in favour of his proposals in Parliament.

With the election in sight, the new social welfare scheme “Auxílio Brasil” will replace the long-running Bolsa Família scheme launched under former left-wing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s tenure, which won widespread international acclaim and is said to have decreased extreme poverty in Brazil by as much as 25%.  Lula will also run in 2022 and is currently well ahead in polls. Whether the Auxílio Brasil scheme or the tactical move to join the Liberals will help Bolsonaro boost his popularity and fortify his position remains to be seen. Having said that, Lula’s welfare reforms were and remain extremely popular, so the jury is out on whether this is where Bolsonaro should be pinning his re-election hopes.  

Post-Brexit Shake-Up for Financial Regulation

What happened?

Rishi Sunak has outlined government proposals for a new post-Brexit system of financial regulations, aimed at having greater focus on growth and international competitiveness. What does it mean?

EU financial services law, which was initially retained after Brexit, is now being overhauled according to Government proposals. The new regime aims to make regulation consistent with growth, something that did not feature in the EU’s framework. The Chancellor has maintained that rules set out by Brussels have constrained the government’s ability to set requirements that suit the needs of UK markets. Sunak, a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs, described Brexit as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to reform financial institutions and regulations.  One of the key takeaways is that the Government will wield more influence over the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), who regulate the industry. They will now be required to consider the implications for growth and international competitiveness as a consequence of their regulations, as well as their existing objectives of maintaining market integrity, consumer protection and a sound financial system. There has been much speculation as to what Brexit will mean for the City of London. The UK announced a few weeks ago that they were set to keep the EU’s cap on bankers’ bonuses, something that many speculated would be scrapped in a bid to keep the competitive status of the City.  Rishi Sunak’s latest proposals certainly aim to boost global competitiveness for the industry, but there is still much to prove.

This week’s must reads

  1. ‘Tory corruption is a huge opportunity for Keir Starmer. Here’s what he should do’ by Simon Fletcher for The Guardian

  2. ‘Joe Biden created America’s inflation mess – and now he’s panicking’ by Ryan Bourne for The Telegraph

  3. ‘The Times view on the Poland-Belarus border crisis: Moral Blackmail’ for The Times

  4. ‘The Owen Paterson fiasco has reminded Westminster that Boris Johnson is mortal’ by Stephen Bush for The New Statesman

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