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Supreme Court rejects Google’s bid to exempt itself from federal wiretap law

By Reuters
Monday, June 30, 2014 9:59 EDT
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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Google Inc’s bid to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of violating federal wiretap law when it accidentally collected emails and other personal data while building its popular Street View program.

The justices left intact a September 2013 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to exempt Google from liability under the federal Wiretap Act for having inadvertently intercepted emails, user names, passwords and other data from private Wi-Fi networks to create Street View, which provides panoramic views of city streets.

The lawsuit arose soon after the Mountain View, California-based company publicly apologized in May 2010 for having collected fragments of “payload data” from unsecured wireless networks in more than 30 countries.

Google was accused of having collected the data while driving its vehicles through neighborhoods from 2008 to 2010 to collect photos for Street View.

In June 2011, U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Francisco allowed plaintiffs in several consolidated private lawsuits to pursue federal Wiretap Act claims against Google, while dismissing California state law claims.

Google already has agreed to pay $7 million to settle a probe into the matter involving 38 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. As part of that settlement, Google agreed to destroy data collected in the United States.

The case is Google Inc v. Joffe et al, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1181.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller)

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