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Privacy class action regarding Google Street View can go forward, 9th Circuit says

Posted Sep 10, 2013 4:21 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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A privacy class-action lawsuit, which argues that Google Street View violated the Wiretap Act because it collected data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, can go forward, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The opinion affirms a U.S. district court ruling denying a motion to dismiss the case. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the three-judge panel rejected Google’s argument that Street View’s data collection is permitted under exceptions to the law, which was updated in the mid-1980s.

"Surely Congress did not intend to condone such an intrusive and unwarranted invasion of privacy when it enacted the Wiretap Act," 9th Circuit Judge Jay Bybee wrote in the opinion (PDF).

Launched in 2007, Street View was meant to compliment Google Maps, according to the opinion, and provide users with photos of locations. Cameras on Google-owned vehicles captured the images, and the vehicles had Wi-Fi antennas and software that collected “payload data” from networks, including personal emails, user names, passwords and documents.

Google acknowledged doing this in 2010, according to the opinion, and has publicly apologized. In March, Google settled a similar case brought by 38 states. The company agreed to pay a $7 million fine and promised to stop collecting the data in question.

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