A federal judge found Thursday that Google could be liable for intercepting data from public WiFi networks as part of last year's Street View controversy.
Google has acknowledged downloading payload data including emails, passwords and URLs, but argued it did nothing illegal because the networks were unsecured and publicly available like radio communications.
Northern District Court of California Judge James Ware rejected that argument and refused to dismiss several class action lawsuits, finding that wireless communications are protected under the Wiretap Act in the same manner as cellphone conversations.
Google is under investigation in several countries in connection with the data collection, which the search giant has said was inadvertent and apologized for many times.
"We believe these claims are without merit and that the Court should have dismissed the Wiretap claim just as it dismissed the plaintiffs’ other claims," said a Google spokesman in a statement. "We’re still evaluating our options at this preliminary stage."
Christian Jenkins, an Ohio attorney on the case against Google, told Wired magazine the decision is a sign Google’s actions were an “invasion of privacy.”