A US appeals court says Google wrongly collected people’s personal correspondence and online activities through their Wi-Fi systems as it drove down their streets with car cameras shooting photos for its Street View mapping project.
The ruling that the practice violates wiretap laws sends a warning to other companies seeking to suck up vast amounts of data from unencrypted Wi-Fi signals.
“The payload data transmitted over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks that was captured by Google included emails, usernames, passwords, images, and documents,” wrote the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a report released today.
Google had argued that their activities were exempt from the wiretap law because data transmitted over a Wi-Fi network is a “radio communication” and is “readily accessible to the public.”
Not so, wrote the judges, agreeing with an earlier federal judge’s ruling.
“Even if it is commonplace for members of the general public to connect to a neighbour’s unencrypted Wi-Fi network, members of the general public do not typically mistakenly intercept, store, and decode data transmitted by other devices on the network,” they said.
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