Google accused of wiretapping, violating privacy through Street View

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Dec. 6, 2010, 7:10am

Google Street View vehicle

Google is facing a class action that accuses the company of intercepting electronic communications and violating privacy laws through its Google Street View application.

Kimberly Costanza, Cindy Brady and Michael Hill, individuals and as representatives of a class of similarly situated people, filed suit against Google Inc. on Nov. 24 in the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division.

Google Street View, used in Google Maps and Google Earth, provides a ground level, panoramic view of streets.

According to the lawsuit, Google obtained these views by using cars and other vehicles equipped with cameras and driving them all over Texas, taking pictures from every angle of each address.

The lawsuit also states that these cameras included Wi-Fi receivers in order to identify Wi-Fi transmitters to connect the photos with corresponding map positions.

Google is accused of intentionally including software in the Wi-Fi receivers that intercepted and recorded information from the transmitters, including emails, passwords, and other private data. These activities began in April 2007 and continued until May, when the company was caught "data scraping." Data scraping occurs when a program extracts human readable output that is coming from another program.

The defendant is accused of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, Electronic Communications Privacy Act and Texas Common Law.

The proposed class is asking the court for a permanent injunction against Google, for an order requiring Google to pay $100 a day for each violation or $10,000, whichever is greater and for an award of punitive damages, disgorgement of profits, actual damages for mental anguish, intrusion on seclusion, court costs and attorney's fees.

The plaintiff is represented by Eric H. Findlay and Brian Craft of Findlay Craft in Tyler.

Jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Leonard E. Davis is assigned to the case.

Case No. 6:10-cv-000626

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