News & Politics

Google May Have to Face Consequences for Snooping on Chats, Emails, User Passwords

SCOTUS refused the company's bid to throw out a lawsuit accusing the company of violating federal wiretapping laws.
In between mapping the world's wonders, and immortalizing public hand jobs and fake murder pranks, Google Street View cars also captured extremely sensitive private data from users' unencrypted Wifi networks. In 2010, Google admitted that the roving cars -- which take panoramic photos at the street level -- may have scooped up passwords, user names, emails, chats, images, even bank records. 
The company apologized, said they would stop collecting data, and then tried very hard to avoid facing any real consequences. As  points out in Business Week, the FCC criticized Google for obstructing their investigation, actually fining the company because they “deliberately impeded and delayed” the probe (a not very onerous fine of $25,000, of course). 
Google claimed that they had not broken federal wiretap laws by grabbing the data, arguing that the information they intercepted could be available to the general public because it was being transmitted on unsecured networks. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, allowing a lawsuit against the company to proceed. 
Today, the Supreme Court refused to hear Google's case for dropping the lawsuit, leaving the lower court's decision intact,PC World reports. The company already agreed to pay 38 states $7 million. European countries are also levying fines. 
As  notes, the continuation of the discovery process in the case may at least keep exposing embarrassing details, making it more difficult for Google to sweep the whole thing under the rug. 

Tana Ganeva is a reporter covering criminal justice, drug policy and homelessness. Follow her on Twitter @TanaGaneva.

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