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Federal judge allows Google Street View suit to proceed

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Thursday rejected a motion by Google [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] to dismiss class-action lawsuits under wiretapping laws. Judge James Ware denied [AP report] Google's argument that when they collected information while creating their Street View [official website] feature, the information was freely and publicly available. Google collected private details transmitted on unencrypted wireless connections, but the company claims it was inadvertent. Ware did dismiss state claims [Bloomberg report], but allowed federal claims to go forward.

Ware approved a settlement agreement [text, PDF] in a privacy lawsuit [JURIST report] against Google over its Buzz [website] social networking application earlier this month, awarding damages to privacy groups previously left out of the original proposed settlement. In March, the FTC settled a similar privacy lawsuit [JURIST report] against Google over charges that the Internet giant breached consumer privacy rights and was misleading during the launch of Buzz. The FTC alleges that when Google launched Buzz through its web-based email, Gmail, users were automatically enrolled without their consent and were unable to decline or leave the social network and that the Buzz privacy controls were confusing. Google has recently faced a number of allegations of violating privacy laws, both in the US and abroad. In November, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] confirmed that it is investigating [JURIST report] Google to determine if it violated communications laws when its Street View vehicles inadvertently collected private user data, including passwords and URLs, over WiFi networks. In October, the FTC ended an inquiry [JURIST report] into the company's data collection through Street View cars after Google assured the FTC that it did not use any of the collected data and announced that it was committed to compliance with privacy laws [text], instituting new training on privacy principles and appointing a new director of privacy.

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