Google wins Street View privacy suit

Court dismisses case filed by Pittsburgh couple who claimed "mental suffering" when their house appeared on the popular map feature.

A couple in Pittsburgh whose lawsuit claimed that Street View on Google Maps is a reckless invasion of their privacy lost their case.

Aaron and Christine Boring sued the Internet search giant last April, alleging that Google "significantly disregarded (their) privacy interests" when Street View cameras captured images of their house beyond signs marked "private road." The couple claimed in their five-count lawsuit that finding their home clearly visible on Google's Street View caused them "mental suffering" and diluted their home value. They sought more than $25,000 in damages and asked that the images of their home be taken off the site and destroyed.

However, the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania wasn't impressed by the suit and dismissed it (PDF) Tuesday, saying the Borings "failed to state a claim under any count."

Ironically, the Borings subjected themselves to even more public exposure by filing the lawsuit, which included their home address. In addition, the Allegheny County's Office of Property Assessments included a photo of the home on its Web site.

The Borings are not alone in their ire toward the Google Maps feature. As reported earlier, residents in California's Humboldt County complained that the drivers who are hired to collect the images are disregarding private property signs and driving up private roads . In January, a private Minnesota community near St. Paul, unhappy that images of its streets and homes appeared on the site, demanded Google remove the images , which the company did.

However, Google claims to be legally allowed to photograph on private roads, arguing that privacy no longer exists in this age of satellite and aerial imagery.

"Today's satellite-image technology means that... complete privacy does not exist ," Google said in its response to the Borings' complaint

Not long after the feature launched in May 2007, privacy advocates criticized Google for displaying photographs that included people's faces and car license plates. And last May, the company announced that it had begun testing face-blurring technology for the service.

 

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