Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

Summary: A federal judge isn't letting Google off the hook when it comes to the lawsuits accusing the search giant of using their Street View cars to illegally gather information.

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A federal judge isn't letting Google off the hook when it comes to the class-action lawsuits accusing the search giant of using their Street View cars to illegally gather information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks, according to an Associated Press report.

Since this controversy started in May 2010, Google's argument has always been that they didn't use the 600GB or so that their Street View cars inadvertently collected, and that any unsecured information transmitted over the air is fair game besides.

But now U.S. District Court Judge James Ware has ruled that wireless Internet data is every bit as protected as cell phone conversations, which means that Google's plea for dismissal is denied and any lawsuit against the company on the grounds of privacy invasion can go forward.

In November, Google was slapped on the wrist by the UK for this same issue. But here at home, these class-action lawsuits are just another legal battle for Google to deal with, amidst an FTC probe into its business practices and 1plusV's antitrust accusations.

Topics: Google, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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30 comments
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  • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

    In before Linux Geek ...
    Google can do no wrong. This is M$ and Apple propaganda. FOSS doesn't steal anything. Google is GOD !!
    1773
    • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

      @1773
      add to those crooks the sue happy, greedy lawyers!
      Linux Geek
    • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

      @1773

      Communications Act of 1934 permits the reception & use of ANY UNENCRYPTED radio signal broadcast through private or public space & on public RF spectrum. This judge is ignoring decades of communications law.

      Remember analog (unencrypted) cordless phones (not cellphones)? Same laws apply to unencrypted networks. Most consumers are naive and expect privacy and when it comes to using public spectrum, they are too shortsighted to encrypt their devices. That shortsightedness on the consumer's part is none of anyone else's fault, or Google's.
      DarthWizworks
      • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

        @DarthWizworks

        Yeah, wouldn't be nice if the lawyers actually knew what the law was? Hopefully it goes down on appeal and this is a career ending move for the judge in question.
        tkejlboom
    • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

      @1773 : So how is your job at Google going? :-)
      Gis Bun
  • This is ridiculous

    If you broadcast unencrypted radio traffic in the United States then that traffic is, BY LAW, deemed to be public and anyone has a right to purchase the equipment to monitor it and use that equipment for that purpose. This is the law that allows for the sale and use of police scanners. The saving grace for cel phone calls is that they are, by default, secured and someone has to pretend to be you by spoofing your equipment in order to intercept them. Open WiFi just doesn't work that way.

    I'm not a fan of the idea that Google collected a bunch of data without informing anyone. The fact is though, that this data was broadcast in an open format over the public radio spectrum and in the USA the law says that anything broadcast over the public spectrum is not deemed to have a presumption of privacy *unless* it is encrypted in some fashion. These idiots with the open networks did this to themselves. Judge Ware is overlooking decades of prior law in this ruling and he's just plain wrong.
    use_what_works_4_U
    • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

      @macadam

      Maybe the users didn't know they were open to begin with. What then? Is it still "fair game"?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

        @Cylon Centurion Solution is simple...if you don't want your butt seen, pull up your pants.
        macsie
      • Ignorance is not an excuse. That NEVER holds up in court.

        @Cylon Centurion
        gwally9@...
      • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

        @Cylon Centurion <br><br>Ignorance of the laws are no excuse. Just as with cordless phones (not cellphones) the same expectation of privacy is not there. Public ignorance is no excuse and just like with cordless phones, people need to wise up and secure their equipment WITH encryption (which is fairly easy to do) if they wish to be protected under the law and have an expectation of privacy.

        If a network is open, unencrypted, & receivable in public space (ie. streets) then the communications act of 1934 explicitly gives the right to receive ALL forms of unencrypted radio signals - this includes data networks as the law does not discriminate on what information is received. This is true for licensed and unlicensed radio bands. I hope Google fights this on these grounds and sets the precedent for a wake-up call. People's ignorance of the laws governing wireless devices should NOT be an excuse to attack anyone. Google is not the only one making use of open wifi networks, just google "wardriving" and you'll quickly see that there are a LOT of people engaged in this activity. It's perfectly legal so long as the person receiving is not intruding on private property to do it, & is not breaking any encryption.
        DarthWizworks
      • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

        @Cylon Centurion

        Yes, by law. You can claim that you didn't know the law, but according to the law, ignorance of the law affords no special protections from it.
        tkejlboom
    • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

      @macadam
      I suspect the judge is better versed in the law than you are. And the judge says the data is protected. Until someone better versed in the law than this judge, the data is protected and I hope Goggle have deeeeeep pockets. As we all know from the treatment of another company, deeeep pockets, indeed
      eargasm
      • A much simpler explanation

        @windozefreak If a homeowner leaves the garage door of their home open that does not mean that anybody has the legal right to walk in and steal what ever is inside. <br><br>Sure, the homeowner did a stupid thing, but that does not excuse the person committing the crime.
        wackoae
      • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

        @wackoae All Google did was record that there was a garage there, and that it was open; they didn't take anything. There's nothing wrong with that.
        a.h.russ
      • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

        @windozefreak

        That assertion is without basis in fact. Do you even know the name or qualifications of the last judge you voted for? The don't put it on the ballot, you know. Appeals judges are more likely to be more versed in the law than the average person. Hopefully this gets rectified on appeal.
        tkejlboom
      • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

        @wackoae

        Here's your problem, your analogy is COMPLETELY inappropriate. A more apt comparison would be that if your neighbor here's you shooting your wife, he can testify against you rather being sued for having the audacity to overhear the gunshots.
        tkejlboom
    • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

      @macadam, I think it should be against the law for anyone to take, acquire, steal, snoop, or whatever the act may be, another persons information, residential or commercial materials, etc without first asking the individual(s) involved for their permission to use or invade upon it. A thief's intention for stealing is for personal gain. What is google's intention for the information they acquired? I and everyone else can see my house on Google Maps. I don't recall giving anyone permission to brodcast over the www, my home. What else are they brodcasting or sharing or informing the world about me? Their needs to be a line drawn somewhere!!!
      kddhow@...
      • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

        @kddhow@...

        You're free to think that, but the fact is that it wasn't.
        tkejlboom
  • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

    600GB is a lot of data to collect and not know about it. Wardriving is one thing, collecting data is another.

    Google needs to pay up for its lapse in judgement.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Google can be sued for Street View Wi-Fi snooping

      @Cylon Centurion So you stand on your porch and yell out information about yourself and then sue the people who listen? Personally I commend google for mapping wifi points. It is the only way wifi location for all those beloved ipod touches works.
      LarsDennert