Judge: Google Can Be Sued for Wiretapping in Street View Debacle [Wired: Threat Level]
Last year, Google got into hot water when it was revealed that its Street View fleet surreptitiously downloaded content from open wi-fi networks around the U.S. While Google initially claimed that its actions were designed to create location data for public wi-fi networks, it later admitted that it had downloaded over 600 GB of data from wireless networks with code that was planted by a company engineer without proper approval to do so.
Now, in a civil action filed by plaintiffs against Google Street View activities, a federal district judge in California has ruled that Google can be held liable for damages under the Wiretap Act. Judge James Ware ruled that even though the networks were not transmitting data that was encrypted, that the data was not open to the general public based on the fact that Google used packet sniffing technology Google to download.
The case could set a significant prescendent when it comes to open wi-fi networks and those that might seek to intercept transmissions over those networks. Google has not yet responded to the judge's ruling in the case.