Published by LawTechie - April 18, 2012 - LawTechie

internet lawyer nyAccording to MediaPost, Google is again accused of violating federal wiretap laws via its roaming fleet of data collection cars. This time the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been asked to investigate.

As MediaPost points out:

If the DOJ takes up the matter, it will become the third federal agency to look into whether Google’s Street View cars broke any laws by collecting payload data — including URLs of sites visited, email and passwords — from WiFi networks that lacked passwords…

So far, however, none of the U.S. actions have amounted to much. The Federal Trade Commission closed an investigation in 2010 without commencing an enforcement proceeding. The Federal Communications Commission also closed its file on Friday. While that agency fined Google $25,000 for impeding the investigation, it didn’t rule that any laws were violated.

Back in July I wrote about how the Northern District of California, in a separate class action, defined WiFi communications as a radio transmission (thereby holding Google in violating of the Federal Wiretap Act for intercepting WiFi communications with its Streetview cars). The Court in that case allowed Google to certify an appeal, currently pending, to the 9th Circuit, due to the novelty of the issues presented. In re Google Inc. Street View Electronic Communications Litigation, 10-MD-02184 (N.D.C.A., July 18, 2011).

Now we get to see whether the DOJ defines WiFi communications as radio transmission, the interception of which would therefore violate the Federal Wiretap Act. Thought: Maybe its time for Congress to bring the Federal Wiretap Act into the 21st Century and just update the definitions for our benefit.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.

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