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Google faces another lawsuit over WiFi sniffing

Third lawsuit over Google Street View cars' data snooping

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Google sued over WiFi data snoopingGoogle has been hit with its third lawsuit in the wake of the Internet giant admitting its Street View cars had accidentally collected private data from unsecured wireless networks.

Galaxy Internet Services, an ISP for homes and businesses in Massachusetts, has filed a class-action lawsuit against Google over the search company's admitted blunder that it sniffed and stored data from WiFi networks.

Through its legal representative, Carp Law Offices, Galaxy said on that Google violated US federal and Massachusetts privacy laws when it captured residential and business Web activity data.

The latest claim, filed in Massachusetts, comes on the back of class-action lawsuits filed in California and Oregon. The suits seek damages of at least $10,000 for every instance in which Google took data from unprotected WiFi hotspots.

The claim in Massachusetts alleges Google violated federal and state privacy laws when its fleet of specially equipped vehicles accidentally recorded and stored fragments of web pages and email messages transmitted across people's wireless networks.

Google declined to comment about the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, Google disclosed that its Street View cars, which take photos for services like Google Maps, had since 2006 mistakenly collected "payload data" from WiFi networks they drove by that weren't password-protected.

Google did intentionally record the networks' names (SSIDs) and their routers' unique identifying numbers (MAC), but has stopped doing this. The Internet company maintains it never used any "payload" data in any of its products.

Galaxy filed its lawsuit on its behalf and on behalf of its customers and anyone else similarly affected in Massachusetts, and is seeking class certification.

Galaxy is also requesting that Google be forbidden from destroying the WiFi data it collected and that it be required to pay damages as determined by a jury, along with attorneys' fees.

The US Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz has said the agency will look into the matter.

Google's admission has also sparked an outcry across Europe and Australia, where the Australian communications minister Stephen Conroy condemned Google's WiFi snooping as the "single biggest breach of privacy in history".

Image credit: CC Mark Wallace/Flickr

IDG News Service writer Juan Carlos Perez contributed to this article



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