In our technologically advanced world, it can be easy for some organizations to access private information without proper authority. As a result, legal protections were set in place to safeguard the rights of those in Las Vegas and nationwide who are victimized, and dissuade others from doing the same. However, the question posed by Google in an on-going civil appeals case is whether or not information that is available to the public can fall under those same legalities.
The Wiretap Act was established to prohibit individuals from eavesdropping, or using a wiretap, to gain access to privileged or private information. However, radio broadcasts, which cannot be protected, were precluded. After Google admitted that their Street View cars accidentally intercepted unencrypted communications from unprotected Wi-Fi networks, Google was sued by multiple individuals who believe that their rights under the Wiretap Act were violated.
Google claims that owners of unencrypted, unprotected data should not expect privacy, as they wouldn’t with a radio broadcast. They assert that their actions were not deliberate and requested that a U.S appellate court grant their motion to dismiss. Their requests were denied.
Appellate court judges ruled that, although the information was available to the general public, the private data was not easily accessible to individuals in the same way that it was to Google. They also ruled that the Wiretap Act does not include terms regarding unencrypted data broadcasts over open Wi-Fi networks and so could not be excluded.
Both Google and those who believe that their rights were violated are entitled to defend their cases and protect their interests.
Source: Computer World, “Court decision in Google Street View case called unpersuasive, flawed,” Jaikumar Vijayan, Sep. 13, 2013