SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

September 11, 2013

Google loses appeal in Street View snooping case

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A federal appeals court said Google wrongly collected people’s personal correspondence and online activities through their Wi-Fi systems as it drove down their streets with car cameras shooting photos for its Street View mapping project.

The ruling that the practice violates wiretap laws sends a warning to other companies seeking to suck up vast amounts of data from unencrypted Wi-Fi signals.

“The payload data transmitted over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks that was captured by Google included emails, usernames, passwords, images, and documents,” wrote the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a report released yesterday.

Google had argued that their activities were exempt from the wiretap law because data transmitted over a Wi-Fi network is a “radio communication” and is “readily accessible to the public.”

Not so, wrote the judges, agreeing with an earlier federal judge’s ruling.

“Even if it is commonplace for members of the general public to connect to a neighbor’s unencrypted Wi-Fi network, members of the general public do not typically mistakenly intercept, store, and decode data transmitted by other devices on the network,” they said.

Google’s Street View cars can be spotted with pole mounted cameras on their roofs, photographing along roadways the world over. The photos then show up on Google’s popular Street View map option, where viewers can virtually scroll along a street past homes, cars and shops, all captured in photographs.

But unbeknownst to passers-by, those cameras weren’t just making photos. They were also collecting detailed information transmitted over Wi-Fi networks they passed through.

Privacy experts and industry watchers said this was the first time an appeals court has ruled that it’s illegal for a company to sniff out and collect private information from the Wi-Fi networks that provide Internet service to people at home. Google is also the first publicly known company to try.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Beverly police catch alleged bank robber

    BEVERLY — Police chased down a man on Rantoul Street after he allegedly robbed a bank inside the Stop & Shop on Elliott Street Tuesday afternoon.

    April 16, 2014 1 Story

  • Possible sites for garage revealed SALEM -- Salem State officials have announced three possible locations for the school's proposed 800-space parking garage and say a final decision on the site could be made within weeks. Parking has long been an issue for the school, and the demand f

    April 16, 2014

  • Serial drunken driver found guilty PEABODY -- A serial drunken driver, who was charged with yet another OUI, was found guilty by a jury Monday afternoon in Lawrence Superior Court. Prosecutors now need to prove it was the man's fifth drunken-driving offense. Peter Hurley, 52, was arre

    April 16, 2014

  • North Shore residents to run in 2014 Boston Marathon

    The Salem News asked those on the North Shore who are running this year's Boston Marathon to share their reasons for running. 

    If you're running the marathon this year, it's not too late to share why you're running. Send a brief paragraph, a photo of yourself and a link to your fundraising site (if applicable) to Cheryl Lecesse at clecesse@salemnews.com.

    April 4, 2014

  • casa de moda Beverly's Casa de Moda to close BEVERLY -- Casa de Moda, the unique specialty store that has dressed up an often struggling downtown for more than four decades, is closing. Janice Preston, who has owned and operated the store with her husband, Don, since 1969, said yesterday that t

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo