Google asks Supremes to let it off wiretap hook

Google has asked the US Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court that its collection of data from unencrypted wi-fi networks is not exempt under federal wiretap laws.

The search engine claims that its data collection does not violate the Wiretap Act as it fell under an exemption that makes it lawful to intercept electronic communications that are readily accessible to the public.

In September, Appeals court ruled that wi-fi network data collected by Google was not readily accessible to the public.

Google wants the Supreme Court to rule that the Appeals court got it wrong in defining “radio communications” under the Wiretap Act were restricted to “predominantly auditory broadcasts” and do not include wi-fi communications.

This is fall out over the Street View cars fiasco when Google kitted out its cars with Wi-Fi antennas and software that sniffed data transmitted by Wi-Fi networks in nearby homes and businesses.

This included network identifying information and so-called payload data transmitted over unencrypted wi-fi networks. Google said that it had inadvertently collected some personal data from unencrypted networks and said sorry.

Google in its appeal to the Supreme Court does not, however, accept that the collection of the data was illegal in the first place.

It pointed out that the US Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission declined to take enforcement action after investigating Google.

Google claims that an adverse ruling could in fact hurt security professionals who routinely use the same kind of technology as Google’s Street View cars did to collect packet data in order to secure company networks.