Google Street View case headed to court (again)

It's good news, bad news for Google. A federal appeals court agrees to rehear the Street View case but also affirms its earlier ruling that tech giant violated wiretap laws when collecting data for Street View.

James Martin/CNET

Google's bid to dismiss a class action suit alleging its Street View program violated wiretap laws is headed, once again, to a federal appeals court.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday agreed to rehear the issue, but refused Google's request to grant for an "en banc" review. The court also issued an amended opinion (PDF) that reaffirmed its ruling in September that Google violated the US Wiretap Act when it collected data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks while capturing Street View images.

"We're pleased that the Court granted our request for a rehearing and revised its opinion," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "But we are disappointed that the order was not completely reversed and are considering our next steps."

Between 2007 and 2010, Street View cars equipped with Wi-Fi antennas collected and stored data including "personal e-mails, usernames, passwords, videos, and documents" that were sent and received over unencrypted Wi-Fi connections. Google collected around 600 gigabytes of data transferred over Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries, according to court documents.

In May 2010, the company apologized for the inadvertent Wi-Fi spying but was soon hit with several class action lawsuits that were eventually consolidated into a single complaint that accused Google of violating federal and state wiretap laws.

Google argues that its actions were not illegal because data transmitted over a Wi-Fi network is an electronic radio communication that is "readily accessible to the general public" and therefore exempt under the Wiretap Act.

About the author

Carrie Mihalcik is an associate editor for CNET News, working in CNET's San Francisco office.


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