Google is currently considering its options after a federal judge gave the go-ahead for a group of consolidated lawsuits to proceed against the company over a potential violation of the Federal Wiretap Act.
Wednesday’s decision by US District Judge James Ware, first reported by Wired, actually dismissed two of the three claims against Google, but left open the group’s ability to sue Google for potentially violating the Wiretap Act:
… the Court finds that Plaintiffs plead facts sufficient to state a claim for violation of the Wiretap Act. In particular, Plaintiffs plead that Defendant intentionally created, approved of, and installed specially-designed software and technology into its Google Street View vehicles and used this technology to intercept Plaintiffs’ data packets, arguably electronic communications, from Plaintiffs’ personal Wi-Fi networks. Further, Plaintiffs plead that the data packets were transmitted over Wi-Fi networks that were configured such that the packets were not readable by the general public without the use of sophisticated packet sniffer technology. Although Plaintiffs fail to plead that the wireless networks fall into at least one of the five enumerated exceptions to Section 2510(16)’s definition of “readily accessible to the general public” for radio communications, the Court finds that the wireless networks were not readily accessible to the general public….
Google had argued that the case should be thrown out, in part, on a technicality that the wireless signals that it intercepted were a “radio communication” and were “readily accessible” because they were unencrypted, thus making the company’s actions exempt from the Wiretap Act. The judge disagreed, saying Google’s claim that it didn’t violate the act is “misplaced.”