Google has lost an appeal in a case about its controversial Street View feature, after a panel of judges rejected its claim that wiretapping laws did not apply to its accidental interception of household WiFi data.
The long-running case came to a head on Tuesday when the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals found that private Wi-Fi networks could not be considered radio communication. Google had argued household wireless internet should be considered in the same category as radio, as data “readily accessible to the general public”, which would make it exempt from the Wiretap Act.
Google’s horrendous breach of privacy with its StreetView data-collection gaffe may at least have one beneficial consequence: making WiFi users think more about security.
Consumer Watchdog, which has emerged as one of the main anti-Google agitators, decided to follow in the tracks of the StreetView cars – literally. It sent out its own vehicle to “sniff” the WiFi networks of certain members of the US Congress whose homes have been photographed by the Google service. Read more
Google has had several years of tussles now with privacy regulators. Three years ago European data protection commissioners began question what the company was doing with all the personal data it was gleaning from users of its search engine. In the past year, the company has faced outrage – at least in some pockets like Italy, Japan and Switzerland – over Street View, which provides panoramic, eye-level views of every street of major cities around the world.
Earlier this year, a leading privacy group called on the US Federal Trade Commission to consider shutting down Google’s web services until the company could better safeguard personal data. There have been a number of instances where Google Docs, Google Desktop and Gmail have had glitches which made users personal documents visible to others. Read more
Of all the schemes Google has dreamt up over the years, Street View has got to be one of the most controversial.
For those not familiar with the idea, Google are taking photos of every street in pretty much the whole world, and integrating it with Google Maps. Naturally, several privacy groups are up in arms at the idea, even though Google have agreed to blur faces and remove people if they request it. Read more