Google users can claim for damages over unsecured Wi-Fi data

A US Court of Appeals ruling that Google broke the law when it gathered unsecured Wi-Fi data when collecting images for Streetview has opened the way for a group of users to claim for damages.

The court said: “Even if it is commonplace for members of the general public to connect to a neighbour’s unencrypted wi-fi network, members of the public do not typically mistakenly intercept, store and decode data transmitted by other devices on the network.”

The lawyer representing the plaintiffs said the case would be resumed.

Between 2008 and 2010, Google collected data from unsecured networks in 30 countries, including New Zealand. The data contained emails, user names, passwords, images and documents.

It led Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff to launch an investigation in May 2010. She found that Google was in breach of New Zealand privacy law.

Google subsequently announced that had been a mistaken collection of publicly broadcast payload data. It said it had made a commitment to the Commissioner to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment.

In the US, Google has paid $US7 million in US fines to settle a case involving 38 states. As well as deleting all the harvested data, it was required to launch an employee training program about privacy and data use.

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