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Google Loses Another Battle on Wifi Collection

01.10.14

One more court ruled against Google’s claim that when Street View collected unencrypted Wifi data between 2007 and 2010 that it was “readily accessible to the general public” so the collection was not a violation of the Wiretap Act. In December 2013 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Google’s appeal that the Wifi data was not a “radio communication.” The US District Court rejected Google’s argument as did the 9th Circuit in September 2013, and the December 2013 ruling affirmed the previous rulings.

Computerworld described the underlying claims of the plaintiffs against Google:

In 2010, Google admitted that its Street View cars had inadvertently captured data transmitted over open Wi-Fi networks when shooting photos. The company apologized for its actions and said it would destroy or render inaccessible close to 650GB of data it had collected from Wi-Fi networks.

Several individuals later sued, claiming Google had violated the Wiretap Act, which prohibits the intentional interception of electronic data.

Google claimed that its actions were legal because the only data it collected was data that was unencrypted and freely available to the general public over unsecured wireless networks. The company claimed that people who did not take affirmative action to protect their data on wireless network should no expectations of privacy over the data.

It likened unsecured wireless data to open radio communications and claimed that the Wiretap Act did not offer any privacy protections to the data.

Now this lawsuit is headed back to the trial court.

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