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
  • Chism attorney wants 'youthful offender' indictments dismissed

    Philip Chism's attorney will argue that the state's "youthful offender" law, which requires that the Danvers teen be tried as an adult in last fall's rape and murder of his teacher, is unconstitutional.
    In documents filed Monday, defense attorney Denise Regan contends that the statute, enacted in 1996, creates two classes of children within the court system, distinguishing them based solely on the charge.

    July 29, 2014

  • Whale watching boat snagged by lobster trap rope

    BOSTON (AP) — They weren't castaways, but like the tourists on Gilligan's Island, a group of whale watchers expecting only a three-hour tour got much more after their boat was snagged by a lobster trap rope off Massachusetts and they were forced to spend a long night at sea.

    July 29, 2014

  • Market Basket store managers vow to resign

    Store managers and assistant managers at Market Baskets in the area signed petitions Monday declaring they would work only for Arthur T. Demoulas, no matter who buys the grocery chain. "It was a voluntary petition," Salem store manager Dave Webber sa

    July 29, 2014 1 Story

  • Former law student gets jail term for stealing jewels SALEM -- A former law student who prowled craigslist for people selling diamond jewelry, then robbed them, all while falsely claiming to be a cancer patient, was sent to jail Thursday. Jeffrey Rosenspan, 32, of Walpole, had 10 diamond rings -- as we

    July 29, 2014

  • sculpture Ipswich approaches gift of art cautiously, with good reason

    Art, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. Which is why politicians and public officials often seek to avoid making judgments on public art. A wrong decision can create a furor.

    That might explain the caution of Ipswich selectmen as resident Rick Silverman proposes to honor his late wife and grace the town with an elegant sculpture on the North Green. Treading lightly lest they offend or preemptively reject the offer, they voted last week to set up a board that will advise them on what is and what isn’t welcome in Ipswich’s public spaces.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos