Way clear for Google to be sued over Street View snooping

The US Supreme Court on Monday rejected Google's bid to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of violating federal wiretap law when it accidentally collected emails and other personal data while building its popular Street View program.

A Google Street View camera shown at the CeBIT fair in Germany in 2010.
A Google Street View camera shown at the CeBIT fair in Germany in 2010. Photo: Daniel Mihailescu

The justices left intact a September 2013 ruling by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to exempt Google from liability under the federal Wiretap Act for having inadvertently intercepted emails, user names, passwords and other data from private Wi-Fi networks while creating Street View, which provides photographs of city streets and private property.

The lawsuit arose soon after the Mountain View, California-based company publicly apologised in May 2010 for having collected fragments of "payload data" from unsecured wireless networks in more than 30 countries. The French government later said it had claimed data back from Google - including emails,browsing history and banking details.

Google was accused of having collected the data while driving its vehicles through neighbourhoods from 2008 to 2010 to collect photos for Street View.

In June 2011, US District Judge James Ware in San Francisco allowed plaintiffs in several consolidated private lawsuits to pursue federal Wiretap Act claims against Google, while dismissing California state law claims.

Google already has agreed to pay $US7 million to settle a probe into the matter involving 38 US states and the District of Columbia. As part of that settlement, Google agreed to destroy data collected in the United States.