WIRED, 25 September 2013
Google is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider a recent ruling finding Google potentially liable for wiretapping when it secretly intercepted data on open Wi-Fi routers.
The Mountain View-based company said the September 10 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will create “confusion” (.pdf) about which over-the-air signals are protected by the Wiretap Act, including broadcast television.
The case concerns nearly a dozen combined lawsuits seeking damages from Google for eavesdropping on open Wi-Fi networks from its Street View mapping cars. The vehicles, which rolled through neighborhoods around the world, were equipped with Wi-Fi–sniffing hardware to record the names and MAC addresses of routers to improve Google location-specific services. But the cars also gathered snippets of content.
The search giant petitioned the San Francisco-based appeals court to reconsider its decision that allowed the case to proceed at trial — a ruling that upended Google’s defense.
Google claimed it is was legal to intercept data from unencrypted, or non-password-protected Wi-Fi networks. Google said open Wi-Fi networks are “radio communications” like AM/FM radio, citizens’ band and police and fire bands, and are “readily accessible” to the general public and exempt from the Wiretap Act — a position the appeals court rejected.