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Judge rules that Google can be sued under federal wiretap laws

Street View debacle far from over
Fri Jul 01 2011, 11:30

A US DISTRICT JUDGE has ruled that Google can be sued for allegedly breaking federal wiretap laws in its Street View WiFi spying debacle.

A number of lawsuits have been filed against the internet giant after its Street View photo cars picked up data from unsecured WiFi networks, including documents, email addresses and passwords.

Google claims it was an accident and blamed the problem on an engineer who added rogue code to Street View, but a lot of people were not happy to accept its word on that.

Violation of federal wiretap laws was one of the claims leveled against Google in these cases. The company requested that the claims be dismissed, but US District Judge James Ware rejected Google's request, according to Reuters.

While this does not make Google guilty of the claims, it does open the legal doors for it to be sued and tried for allegedly having broken wiretapping laws, which elevates the nature of the case quite considerably.

It can be expected that Google will bring up the issue of intent as a primary defence in these cases, which it might claim differentiates its actions from other cases where phones and internet connections were deliberately tapped.

This latest setback for Google could have been much worse, as there were further claims under state wiretap laws and California's unfair competition rules that were rejected by the judge at Google's request. This means Google will only face federal laws on the matter.

"We believe these claims are without merit and that the court should have dismissed the wiretap claim just as it dismissed the plaintiffs' other claims," said a Google spokesperson. "We're still evaluating our options at this preliminary stage."

This might mean that Google will appeal the decision. µ


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