WASHINGTON (CN) – Federal class actions in Washington and San Francisco joined German regulators in complaining that while Google sent vehicles all over world to take photos for maps, it was “surreptitiously collecting private information” from unguarded Wi-Fi networks. The class in DC Federal Court claims Google made the intercepted information available to its vendors and contractors.
In Washington, the class demands statutory and punitive damages for violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Google launched its “Google Street View” technology in 2007, dispatching “specially adapted cars,” “Google Trikes” and even snowmobiles to capture images of streets around the world.
Along with sophisticated cameras and GPS units, the class says Google equipped its vehicles with “antennas for scanning 3G/GSM and Wi-Fi hotspots.”
Google has admitted to the German Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information that it picked up Wi-Fi signals and swiped “payload data.”
The District of Columbia class claims that “Google admitted that its street view vehicles throughout the world were actually capturing … data consisting of all or part of any documents, e-mails, video, audio and VOIP information being sent over the wireless Internet.”
The class seeks damages up to $10,000 per violation, punitive damages, and want Google enjoined from destroying the personal data it has collected.
The class is represented by Philip Friedman.