The U.S. Supreme Court declined to throw out a class-action lawsuit against Google for sniffing Wi-Fi networks with its Street View cars.
The Supreme Court on Monday denied Google's request to hear the Street View case after a U.S. appeals court in September refused to throw out the class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that Google violated U.S. wiretapping laws when its Street View cars accessed unencrypted Wi-Fi networks as they drove through neighborhoods.
The Supreme Court, without comment, allowed the decision in Joffe v. Google by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to stand. The appeals court had sided with a U.S. district court, which had denied Google's motion to dismiss claims that it had violated the Wiretap Act.
Google had argued that the data collected by the Street View cars were radio communications not covered by the Wiretap Act. Google also argued that the unencrypted Wi-Fi networks were readily available to the general public, described in the law as not covered by wiretap rules.
A Google spokesman said the company was "disappointed" that the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
U.S. residents filed several class-action lawsuits against Google shortly after the company acknowledged in mid-2010 that its Street View cars were accessing email, Web-surfing history and other "payload" data on unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.
Several lawsuits against Google were consolidated in the Wiretap Act case, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
In March 2013, Google agreed to pay US$7 million to settle complaints from 38 states and the District of Columbia related to the Wi-Fi data collection. The company also agreed to destroy the personal data it had collected.
Several other countries launched their own Street View investigations.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.