Google is trying to make the US Supreme Court overturn a decision of the Appeals Court saying that the company’s collection of data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks isn’t exempt under federal wiretap legislation. Google insists that its data collection doesn’t infringe the Wiretap Act, because it fell under an exemption which makes it legal to intercept electronic communications readily accessible to the public.
A few months ago, Appeals Court decided that Wi-Fi network data collected by the search engine wasn’t actually readily accessible to the public. However, the company wants the Supreme Court to rule that the Appeals Court mistakenly defined that “radio communications” under the Wiretap Act were limited to “predominantly auditory broadcasts” and therefore don’t include Wi-Fi.
It must be noted that this was fall out over the Street View cars fiasco when the tech giant equipped its cars with Wi-Fi antennas and software able to sniff information transmitted by Wi-Fi networks in homes and businesses. The collected data included network identifying information and “payload data” transmitted over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. Google “found out” that it had “inadvertently” harvested some personal data from unencrypted networks and even apologized.
However, in its appeal to the Supreme Court, the company doesn’t admit that the data collection was against the law in the first place. Google claimed that the US Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission refused to take enforcement action after investigating the tech giant.
The company explained that an adverse ruling could in fact hurt security experts who routinely use the same kind of technology as Google’s Street View cars did to harvest packet information to ensure the security of the company networks.