A Federal appeals court refused on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit against Google that accuses the technology giant of having violated a federal wiretap law when it collected emails, user names, passwords, and other data from personal Wi-Fi networks while collecting photos for its popular Street View feature.
The lawsuit began after Google publicly apologized in 2010 for gathering “payload data” from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries, Reuters reports. The allegedly inadvertent data grab occurred when Google vehicles were driving around the world collecting photos to assemble Street View.
Circuit Judge Jay Bybee wrote that this collection violated the Wiretap Act, and that privacy protections do not depend on whether or not the network is secure.
The decision, which is being hailed by privacy advocates as a landmark decision, allows plaintiffs in several consolidated private lawsuits to pursue federal Wiretap Act claims against Google.