Supreme Court passes on Google privacy case

The Supreme Court declined to take up a case charging Google with violating federal wiretapping laws by picking up some data on people’s Wi-Fi routers.

The court’s decision on Monday is a blow to Google, which had asked the high court to dismiss a lawsuit that was previously upheld by a federal appeals court. As a result, the lawsuit will proceed in a lower court.

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Google’s Street View cars, which take pictures of neighborhoods throughout the world for the popular mapping service, were equipped with hardware that picked up some data in people’s unencrypted home Wi-Fi routers in order to better pinpoint their location. 

However, from 2007-2010, the company also inadvertently picked up some emails, passwords and other Internet activity known as “payload” data, it claimed.

The Federal Communications Commission declined to press charges, since Google did not actively break into any networks but just picked up unsecured data.

A group of Internet users filed a class action lawsuit, however, claiming Google violated federal wiretapping laws. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seemed to agree with them, declaring that “members of the general public do not typically mistakenly intercept, store, and decode data transmitted by other devices on the network.” 

Last year, the company reached a $7 million settlement with 38 states over the collection. Earlier this year, Google paid a fine of about $1.4 million for similar charges in Italy.