Google could face US wire-tapping charges following Wi-Fi network data harvesting

A US district court judge has dismissed some elements of a class action lawsuit against Google over its Wi-Fi harvesting practices, but says the company is still liable for prosecution.

A US district court judge has dismissed some elements of a class action lawsuit against Google over its Wi-Fi harvesting practices, but says the company is still liable for prosecution.

Google avoided prosecution in most countries by calling a halt to the collection of Wi-Fi data and promising to destroy all the data already gathered.

The US class action lawsuit was brought on behalf of plaintiffs from nine states after it was revealed in 2010 that Google's vehicles were harvesting Wi-Fi data from unencrypted networks in 30 countries as they recorded images for its Street View service.

Google has tried to have the case dismissed on the grounds that anyone could have intercepted the transmissions and that the interception of the data was unintentional and caused by the inclusion of experimental code by mistake in software used by the Street View cars.

But Judge James Ware said that just because a Wi-Fi network was open did not mean it was meant to be public and ruled that because Google used specialist equipment to access the data, it was liable for prosecution under federal wire tap laws, according to the BBC.

In a statement, Google said it would consider the latest ruling before deciding whether to launch an appeal.

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