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Google Street View Wiretapping Lawsuit Proceeds

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Is Google Street View wiretapping? A Google Wi-Fi lawsuit says so.

A federal judge has recently decided to proceed with a Google wiretapping class-action case, refusing Google's request to dismiss the lawsuits. The lawsuits allege the Internet giant was illegally collecting online data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

The main feature in question is once again Google Street View. Hounded by privacy advocates, many have thought Google Street View is more than a little intrusive, since it snaps up photos of homes and residences without approval. But, this lawsuit isn't about the images that Street View encompasses - it's about the data that the Street View cars allegedly tap into.

Google has already acknowledged that the Street View cars (essentially, cars with cameras strapped to the top) have inadvertently gathered data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks throughout the U.S. and globally, reports the Associated Press.

In total, the Street View cars have accidentally processed around 600 gigabytes of data, the AP reports.

Google's response was that they didn't realize they were accidentally "sniffing" the packets of data. Google uses databases of Wi-Fi networks to help them figure out the location, helping or replacing the GPS, reports Wired.

And, Google says that it never reviewed the sniffed data, according to Wired. Google says their actions don't run afoul of the Wiretap Act, which specifically excludes from "wiretapping" activities that "intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public."

Google says that unencrypted Wi-Fi networks are excluded under that clause, because the communication is readily accessible to the general public.

Not so, said Judge James Ware. According to Judge Ware, this exclusion only applies to radio, reports Wired.

So, unfortunately for the company, the Google Wi-Fi lawsuit will proceed. Though, whether or not Google Street View is wiretapping is still unanswered - no hearing date has been set yet, reports Wired.

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