Google has been sued for violating federal wiretapping laws by collecting personal data as part of its Street View project. The Supreme Court rejected to hear Google’s appeal regarding the class action lawsuit for secretly collecting email, passwords, and other personal info for the mapping project. The case will go forward in the lower court as Google maintains its innocence. The case highlights a rising public push for protection of privacy over data usage for commercial gain.
“The public face of Street View involved special cars that photographed streetscapes. But the cars were collecting wireless data too. Google said that part of the program was an unauthorized project by a rogue engineer, an assertion that regulators challenged,” reports The New York Times.
Google explains that people were transmitting data through Wi-Fi as a form of radio communication, which does not break federal laws.
On the other hand, “In common parlance, watching a television show does not entail ‘radio communication,’” Judge Jay Bybee wrote. “Nor does sending an email or viewing a bank statement while connected to a Wi-Fi network.”
The court is following its reputation as a defender of privacy over technological intrusion, formed by cases including its ruling that cell phone searches require a warrant.
According to the article, “Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed a brief in the appeals court supporting the plaintiffs, said Monday’s decision was ‘a significant victory for Internet users,’ adding, ‘The Supreme Court left in place a decision that protects private residential networks from snooping by Google and others.’”
At Google I/O, the company’s annual developers’ conference, Google introduced the idea that its new devices — which will expand from computers and mobile devices to the home, the body and vehicles — will now communicate and share data. This will require users to trust the company with their information.
If Google is accused of exploiting that trust, it is less likely that consumers will accept these new devices.
U.S. Supreme Court’s Milestone Ruling Protects Cellphone Privacy, Reuters, 6/25/14