Google Sued — Street View Vehicles Accused of Spying

A Washington, D.C. man has claimed that Google's street view vehicles aren't just cruising around hoping to create point-of-view maps and catch the occasional sunbather in a compromising position. A lawsuit filed last week in the nation's capital alleges that the gargantuan company has been surreptitiously collecting private individuals' WiFi “payload data” as it drives through city streets — something it has already largely admitted to doing.

While Google street view vehicles openly collect publicly broadcast information from WiFi devices — such as names and MAC addresses for location-aware advertising services. Yet the company now acknowledges that it was also collecting “payload data” — i.e. all that stuff you've downloaded, etc. — in what it claims was one hell of “a mistake.” For three years.

Not good enough, say government officials in Germany and Ireland. Echoing that statement is one Jeffrey Colman, the D.C. resident suing Google in a class-action suit based on anti-wiretapping laws. “Rather than taking pictures of public places, Google was surreptitiously collecting private information,” the suit alleges. This, the lawsuit charges, includes “e-mails, video, audio, and other payload data belonging to users and operators of home-based Wi-Fi networks.”

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