Illegal Data Collection at Google

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Not a day goes by now without any news from the technology sector. Thanks to Google, Microsoft and many other tech companies, the tech news are becoming quite popular.

Google seems to be in the news again this week. This time regarding its illegal data collection.

The company tried everything to get the class action lawsuit to be thrown out, it even claimed that anyone could have intercepted the wirless signals.

However federal judge has denied Google’s request to dismiss several lawsuits accusing the company of illegally collecting private information from open Wi-Fi networks.

What happened?

To those who are not familiar with the case, let?s start at the beginning.

The problem was discovered in 2010 when German data protection officials asked the company what information its Street View photography cars were collecting.

As well as taking panoramic images, it was discovered that they also logged wi-fi networks to help with the search firm?s location services.

That involved sampling packets of data from wireless hotspots. On open, unencrypted networks the system grabbed logins, passwords and other personal details. About 600MB of data was collected in 30 countries.

Since the blunder was revealed, Google has stopped its Street View cars logging wi-fi networks.

At the time Google apologized for its actions. As usual it blamed on the technology, it said it was a coding error and pledged to delete the data.

There is a rumor that Google actually did keep its word.

International investigation

The revelations created such an outcry that many countries tried to block Google services in their countries. Further investigations were underway in several countries.

France fined Google 100,000 euros (?87,000) over the breach.

Ruling

Judge James Ware disagreed, writing that “presumption of accessibility” applies only to “traditional radio broadcast mediums and do not address any broader radio-based communications technology of the time.”

Ware said that the data doesn’t count as “lost property.” But the dismissal is without prejudice, meaning that the plaintiffs have to option to file the claim again with more facts to support their argument.

“Merely pleading that a network is unencrypted does not render that network readily accessible to the general public,” Judge Ware wrote in his decision.

The fact that Google used some specialist equipment meant it was was liable for prosecution under federal wire tap laws.

Judge Ware threw out several other elements of the complaint against Google, relating to state laws on wire tapping and unfair competition.

But Ware did grant a dismissal of another charge. Google was also accused of violating the California Business and Professional Code, with the plaintiffs alleging they had suffered “injury” and “lost money or property” as a result of Google’s unlawful business practices.

In a statement, the company dismissed the claims and said it would consider the latest ruling before deciding whether to launch an appeal.

Wire tapping

US laws on wire tapping were in need of updating, said Jim Dempsey, a privacy expert at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

The laws were last updated in the late 1980s to address such things as CB radio and baby monitors, he said.

“I don’t think anyone doubts that it should be illegal to intercept someone’s communications,” said Mr Dempsey.

“But I think it’s equally clear that the law doesn’t clearly cover that issue right now and that the law is really a mess.

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