Judge declines to dismiss Wi-Fi sniffing lawsuit against Google

A district judge declined to dismiss a class-action lawsuit against Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) that accuses the search giant of violating wiretap laws when it inadvertently collected Wi-Fi data traveling over unsecure access points.

Judge James Ware with the Northern California District Court dismissed state-level claims, but the wiretapping claims will go on because data traveling over Wi-Fi networks is not considered "readily accessible to the general public."

The action stems from last May, when Google admitted it unknowingly collected W-Fi payload data from access points that might have included personal information via its Street View Cars. And later it admitted the information included entire email addresses, web addresses and passwords.

Google's action prompted various inquiries from international data protection authorities and private lawsuits that were subsequently consolidated into one case. The company asked the court in December to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it was "misguided" because the data traveled over unencrypted networks that were readily available to the public anyway.

The judge, however, said that although the plaintiffs didn't password protect their networks that didn't mean they gave people permission to actually use the network.

The data collected by Google wouldn't have been accessible "without the use of rare packet sniffing software; technology allegedly outside the purview of the general public," the judge wrote. "Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiffs plead facts sufficient to support a claim that the Wi-Fi networks were not 'readily accessible to the general public,' such that exemption G1 would not apply."

The plaintiffs have until Aug. 1 to file an amended complaint.

For more:
- see this PCMag article

Related articles:
Google agrees to hand over Wi-Fi data to Connecticut
Congressmen ask FCC to fully investigate Google's collection of Wi-Fi payload data
Unsecured Wi-Fi routers becoming legal problem

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