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Supreme Court Rejects Appeal By Google Over Street View Data Collection 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-collect-my-data-bro dept.
An anonymous reader writes "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 justices left intact a federal appeals court ruling that the U.S. Wiretap Act protects the privacy of information on unencrypted in-home Wi-Fi networks. Several class-action lawsuits were filed against Google shortly after the company acknowledged that its Street View cars were accessing email, web history and other data on unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. A Google spokesman said the company was disappointed that the Supreme Court had declined to hear the case."
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Supreme Court Rejects Appeal By Google Over Street View Data Collection

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  • wut (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I suppose listening to ham radio now is a crime.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I suppose listening to ham radio now is a crime.

      Nice strawman.

      This is more like going around on a tall vehicle and taking pictures through second-story windows.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shakrai (717556)

      Listening to cordless and cellular phone calls is indeed a crime in the United States, even though they used to be broadcast in the clear.

    • > I suppose listening to ham radio now is a crime.

      No, but recording and publishing it all on the Internet probably would and should be a crime. Which is more or less what Google did.
      • > I suppose listening to ham radio now is a crime.

        No, but recording and publishing it all on the Internet probably would and should be a crime. Which is more or less what Google did.

        No, according to the Communications Act of 1932, you could listen to and repeat anything that was publicly broadcast, and you could listen to anything.

        That changed when Ronald "Get the Government off the Backs of the People" Reagan took office and it was made illegal to listen to cell phone frequencies. Which at the time were not digital.

        Curiously, the famed cell intercept that caused Newt Gingrich so much grief was never prosecuted.

        • -1 offtopic. It's not productive to sidetrack this discussion with a long thread on ham radio related issues.
    • For a better analogy, instead of Ham Radio -- consider that this "using unencrypted wifi == wiretapping" logic makes it really hard to run an open WiFi hotspot.

      Back when in lived in SF, I provided free wifi to the coffee shop at the end of my block just for fun. QOS routing meant it didn't interfere with my traffic, and the only thing protecting it was a "please don't abuse this" welcome page.

      Now people would be afraid to connect to it, on the grounds that even seeing if an access point welcomes the p

      • Shit. A lot of states classifying video taping another person without consent to be wiretapping
        • by Stan92057 (737634)
          Shit. A lot of states classifying video taping another person without consent to be wiretapping

          Citation please first I've even hurds that statement before
          • You can find out all you need by googling "wiretapping two party state". Most refer to recording phone calls, but it includes anything recording voice. Here is a map, with the red states indicating which you can be charged with wiretapping for recording a conversation without all parties consent:

            http://www.vegress.com/index.p... [vegress.com] Essentially, without consent in these states, recording audio is considered "Interception of communication", which is why it falls under wiretapping laws
            • by AK Marc (707885)
              He said "video". The rules for that are more variable. More than one motel owner has put cameras in the bathrooms, and wasn't able to be prosecuted for it because he didn't capture audio.

              Your response to a video question is about audio.
      • people will connect to any open public access point and do all sorts of unencrypted business on it. Just name it "free wifi" or something then watch all the flies come to your honeypot. you give people too much credit.
        • by ron_ivi (607351)

          people will connect to any open public access point and do all sorts of unencrypted business on it. Just name it "free wifi" or something

          Somewhat surprisingly, they didn't (to the best of my knowledge).

          That's exactly what I did, covering a reaonsably busy intersection in SF. Maybe back then people were more careful what they did online - but all I ever noticed was light casual use like bring up maps of the area.

      • also, from your perspective as a "community provider", I would never do this lest the user download some CP. no thanks I don't want any connection to that. How do you show a judge that while this went over your network it was accessed by someone else? Presumably you could show logs, but are you saving all those detailed logs? And just cuz you have logs doesn't mean anyone would believe you.
    • Or maybe "oh here's a door. I wonder if it's locked. Newp. Well then, I guess I better go inside, take some photos and read some of their documents. And then use that information for presumably commercial purposes. It's got to be legal and right, the door was unlocked."
      • by hawguy (1600213)

        Or maybe "oh here's a door. I wonder if it's locked. Newp. Well then, I guess I better go inside, take some photos and read some of their documents. And then use that information for presumably commercial purposes. It's got to be legal and right, the door was unlocked."

        Why do people keep using that flawed analogy, Google didn't open any doors, not even unlocked ones, the Wifi signals were broadcast in the clear for all to hear -- including bad guys. They captured only plaintext, they didn't break any encryption, not even WEP.

        What Google did is more akin to photographing the contents of the papers you left sitting on your desk... which you left sitting out on the sidewalk for all to see. If you didn't want other people to see your private documents, you shouldn't have left

        • What Google did is more akin to photographing the contents of the papers you left sitting on your desk...

          It is not always legal to photograph through a window without consent, and there are good reasons for that.
          Also it is not always legal to collect data that is somehow publicly available and to make a database out of it.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        The door was unlocked with a sign hanging on it saying "open". Try again.
        • No, the door was open, and it's broadcasting because most users have no technical ability and don't know much about Wifi security.

          But hey, even if the door says "open", it's a private house. The "normal" thing to do is knock, go "hey is anyone home?", enter, say hi and state your business. Else why the heck are you entering that door? Because if you enter, take pics of everything, read their documents ("Street View cars were accessing email, web history and other data"), and store it into your database fo
          • by AK Marc (707885)

            But hey, even if the door says "open", it's a private house. The "normal" thing to do is knock, go "hey is anyone home?", enter, say hi and state your business.

            If the door says "open" then it is a home based business that has invited you in.

            Else why the heck are you entering that door?

            Because they invited me in. I was curious why.

            Street View cars were accessing email, web history and other data

            Web history is stored on a computer. If they actually accessed web history, rather than monitoring the broadcast web requests, then they were rifling through locked cabinets after being invited in. If they just captured sites that were accessed while they could see them, then it's no different than driving down the street with a camera pointed to the side, recording the colors of

    • by westlake (615356)

      I suppose listening to ham radio now is a crime.

      Listening, no.

      Sharing what you've heard for fun and profit, yes.

    • I suppose listening to ham radio now is a crime.

      No. The only purpose of ham radio is broadcasting publicly. The broadcaster clearly intended for you to hear his transmission.

      I think the best example would be open shades in a window. You could be walking by, seeing some people having wild sex and assume they are into voyeurism and sit down for a show. The police could come by, give you a hard time and you could say "Well I thought they wanted people to look! The shades are open!" and he'd likely let you off.

      Then along comes Google. They send drones out to

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

        I think the best example would be open shades in a window. You could be walking by, seeing some people having wild sex and assume they are into voyeurism and sit down for a show. The police could come by, give you a hard time and you could say "Well I thought they wanted people to look! The shades are open!" and he'd likely let you off.

        A little old man calls 911. "I have a problem here!

        The police come over and ask what the problem is....

        "Those dIsgusing people on the other side of the street are running around the house naked. They are doing it right now! It's terrible and has to stop!"

        "But Sir, I can't see anone doing that"

        "Of course not, you need these binoculars!"

      • by dpiven (518007)

        The only purpose of ham radio is broadcasting publicly.

        You have this 100% wrong.

        The amateur radio service is intended for station-to-station communications; amateur radio operators are in fact required to keep a log indicating the date and time of each contact and the callsign of the station contacted. "Broadcasting" is explicitly prohibited on the ham bands.

    • Retransmitting analog cell phone calls was made into a crime which is why Google is getting slapped over this. Multi-band radios used to be able to tune them in before analog became essentially obsolete. The difference, of course, is that WiFi APs *advertise* their presence on purpose rather than carry the presumption of privacy but we can't expect old people to understand technology.

  • boo hoo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by danomatika (1977210) on Monday June 30, 2014 @04:56PM (#47353719)

    its Street View cars were accessing email, web history and other data on unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. A Google spokesman said the company was disappointed that the Supreme Court had declined to hear the case.

    Boo hoo Google. By their logic, if I leave my door unlocked, the Google Street View car driver can stop his vehicle, open my door, and read the documents on my desk? Hey, I left my door unlocked so I was asking for it!

    • by Calsar (1166209)

      I think a better analogy would be if you printing out your emails and web history and scattered the sheets of paper around your yard and the street in front of your house. Then someone driving down the road took a picture of your house and street which included the information you left laying out in the open.

    • Re:boo hoo (Score:5, Informative)

      by choprboy (155926) on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:44PM (#47354211) Homepage

      its Street View cars were accessing email, web history and other data on unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. A Google spokesman said the company was disappointed that the Supreme Court had declined to hear the case.

      Boo hoo Google. By their logic, if I leave my door unlocked, the Google Street View car driver can stop his vehicle, open my door, and read the documents on my desk? Hey, I left my door unlocked so I was asking for it!

      The summary is a BS deceptive description of what happened and your analogy is a BS comparison. Google never "open[ed] your door and read the documents". Google drove around mapping streets AND had a wireless sniffer running to capture/correlate access point beacons with location data. Access point beacons are publicly broadcast, not encypted. Google saved this captured data to a file...

      Oh, and by the way, it turns out countless morons are running unsecured public access points and transmitting their sensitive information over these public access points (user names/passwords/email/etc). Google inadvertently captured this very public data in the same stream as the public access point beacons.

      A more fitting analogy would be:
          Thousands of morons walk down the street repeatedly shouting out their user names and passwords for anyone to hear. Google happened to be driving by at the time, dictating notes into a recorder about what features are on the street, which also captured these people shouting in the background. Morons now want Google to be held liable for "wiretapping their private communications".

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Google inadvertently captured this very public data in the same stream as the public access point beacons.

        If only there was a way to filter what they captured [wikispaces.com] and not log everything. Maybe even a free piece of software so Google wouldn't have to blow the budget.

      • Logic more twisted and tortured I have rarely if ever seen.

    • Not even close to the reality of what's happening. If you want a close car analogy: you stuck a bumper sticker with your social security number on the back of your car. Google happened to be photographing the street, and now you want to accuse them of trying to steal your identity.
    • by Stan92057 (737634)
      Well they would have left an email address for you to opt-out HAHAHAHa.
      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Google won't let you opt out of their wi-fi location database without changing your SSID [google.com]. So I'm the one who has to change my network and every connected device if I don't want to be part of their geolocation efforts. Because an opt-out by MAC address would be sooooooo difficult to implement.

  • The Supreme Court hears something on the order of 1% of the cases people try to send it.

    It's only news when they decide to hear a case, not when they don't.

    It also has no precedential value that they rejected it--meaning the appeals court ruling it leaves undisturbed is all that's there, so this ruling is only binding on one area of the country.

  • You can't claim defense when your un-encrypted or poorly encrypted network gets read. Think about it this way, if you are getting changed in your room and have very poor / no curtains at all then you can't or shouldn't be allowed to complain when someone see's you naked. If you cared about your data getting read then you would of blocked people from reading it, just as if you cared about people seeing you naked, you'd hang curtains up. In this case I would of told the idiots who left there networks expos
    • It's not about encryption or not. It's about the scale.
      Steal an apple from your neighbor, and nobody will make a fuss. Steal a fruit from every tree in the village to set up your own juice pressing factoring, and somebody will take offense.
      • by Murdoch5 (1563847)
        The either put up a fence or deal with the fact you didn't prevent the issue in the first place.
    • by perpenso (1613749)
      Google is accused of recording data not merely reading it. To use your analogy it would be more like google walking up to the window without curtains and taking pictures.
      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        Stop using the picture taking analogy. It doesn't work because there are specifically laws forbidding taking pictures of the inside of someone's house.

        • Well then, I guess it's time we pass a new law, ain't it.
          • Yes, a law against people sending their unencrypted credentials through their neighborhood and whining afterward would be a good start. Privacy is an important thing after all.
        • by perpenso (1613749)

          Stop using the picture taking analogy. It doesn't work because there are specifically laws forbidding taking pictures of the inside of someone's house.

          It does work, these laws are the point of the update to the GP's analogy. Why does it work, because the Supreme Court let stand a ruling that says unencrypted wifi is protected by wiretapping legislation.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          And there are laws specifically against recording unencrypted signals emanating from someone's house (the wiretap laws in question). What's your point? The taking pictures through your window analogy is pretty much exactly what happened.

          Google didn't just scan SSIDs like a regular war driver would, they connected to the APs and recorded traffic. That's not just "oopsie, it was an accident."

      • by Murdoch5 (1563847)
        Well when you can read it you can record it. As the person in front of the window I should have no right to tell someone they can't record me when I knowingly made the choice to not privatize myself. In fact I would claim that you have even less right to complain when it comes to Wi-Fi because the security is already there, you just have to use it. It would be like the window coming with curtains installed and you just didn't put them down.
        • by perpenso (1613749)

          Well when you can read it you can record it. As the person in front of the window I should have no right to tell someone they can't record me when I knowingly made the choice to not privatize myself. In fact I would claim that you have even less right to complain when it comes to Wi-Fi because the security is already there, you just have to use it. It would be like the window coming with curtains installed and you just didn't put them down.

          The Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that protects unencrypted wifi under existing wiretapping statutes. Their opinion, unlike ours, is the law.

    • by Krishnoid (984597)

      Think about it this way, if you are getting changed in your room and have very poor / no curtains at all then you can't or shouldn't be allowed to complain when someone see's you naked.

      Exactly! Under no circumstances should they be allowed to complain ... oh wait, never mind.

  • The important message from Google that I noted today is that some of their programming team are discussing domestic products that pass personal data over unencrypted channels, and that includes WiFi passwords. This is nasty! This is SO easy to fix, and the open source libraries to do it are free in easy to inherit C, and a variety of other formats. This is the positive message that can be extracted from Google's work.
  • The federal government does not like it when private corporations act like they are the federal government.
  • by organgtool (966989) on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:45PM (#47354215)
    I'm all for privacy, but it's your own responsibility to protect your privacy. If you don't want your communications broadcast to the entire neighborhood, then take the steps necessary to set up encryption on your broadcasting device. There was a time when setting up encryption was difficult, but now it is a breeze and there is simply no excuse for not doing it. The instructions on most wireless routers even highly recommend encryption, so not setting it up is willful negligence on the user's part.
  • All you guys posting to the effect that Google has been doing nothing wrong in connection with this - you all lost me at the point you failed to acknowledge or comprehend this:

    [Google] acknowledged that its Street View cars were accessing email, web history and other data on unencrypted Wi-Fi networks

    Did any of you even read the summary? I have no issue with Google recording the presence of my (hypothetical) open WiFi hotspot at such-and-such location and publishing that fact, even with an exterior photo of

    • by truedfx (802492) on Monday June 30, 2014 @06:18PM (#47354539)
      FTFA: "Google has admitted that its camera-equipped Street View cars inadvertently captured emails, passwords and other data from unprotected wireless networks as they drove by." The key word that should make all the difference is "inadvertently". It's up to you to choose whether you believe it (I do), but they claim they weren't looking at the private data at all, and only found out later that it had got recorded along with the data that was supposed to be recorded.
      • To all the morons claiming that Google was poking around in private files, please learn to read (and/or stop believing idiotic/biased/sensationalist summaries).
        No one would would have ever known about this except that Google (out of an, apparently misguided, attempt to not be evil) actually voluntarily came forward reported that this had occurred. They were scanning for SSIDs which are extremely useful to assisted GPS, and also ended up storing some random non-encrypted packets from completely unsecured Wi

        • by fnj (64210)

          Sergei Brin, is that you? “If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great. If we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great. We're doing it as well as can be done." Did you say that [theregister.co.uk] to the Guardian?

      • by edelbrp (62429)

        It depends on the interpretation of "inadvertently", perhaps. There were a group of engineers who designed the system to capture data and that group later tried to "shop" the data to other groups within Google, including the Search group, but they didn't think it would add value. This was covered ad-naseum in the European press for almost 5 years now.

        From the BBC in 2010:

        Google said the problem dated back to 2006 when "an engineer working on an experimental wi-fi project wrote a piece of code that sampled

      • by fnj (64210)

        Thank you for clarifying that. So far, checking into that, I ran across this [theregister.co.uk], which says that Google tried to scapegoat one engineer (shades of GM), when actually management failed to do its function, and according to the FCC Google impeded and delayed the FCC's investigation, resulting in a fine of - wait for it - $25 grand. I would say that is about the equivalent of one dust grain filed off of a single penny to you or me.

        The project software was clearly designed to capture and record those packets which

        • by truedfx (802492)
          I do not know enough about the FCC investigation to comment on that part, but a cover-up attempt is definitely not what is happening. No one would have even known about this if Google had not voluntarily come forward with the information. Here is the blog post from four years ago, from Google themselves, [blogspot.com] and they did in fact work with relevant agencies in various countries to determine how to fix the mess they caused.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        I've gone out scanning for APs. Recording SSIDs and data packets are COMPLETELY different things. You don't "inadvertently" do the second while doing the first. In fact, actually connecting to the APs just slows your entire operation down.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But when the NSA does it, it's totally fine and not even legally considered "intercepted".

  • ... Google threw an epic bitch fit over the NSA reading data off of their unprotected, unencrypted WAN connections.

  • I hope they don't allow Google to agree to anything that lets them off the hook because they got the settlement money they wanted.
  • by zmooc (33175)

    I really don't get this. You get a radio transmitter, start transmitting stuff en then go complaining that others are listening. Anybody, corporations like Google included, should have the absolute right to do whatever they want with any electromagnetic or other radiation that reaches their bodies or equipment. Any restriction on that would be the modern-day equivalent of prohibition to look at things. If you don't want me to see your stuff or receive your radio waves or listen to your sound waves, just don

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