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US judge greenlights case against Google Wi-Fi slurp

'We place a priority on privacy', chips in Microsoft

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A request by Google to throw out a lawsuit that alleges the company violated US federal wiretap law has been rejected by a judge in San Francisco.

This means Google can be sued for its Street View vehicles' Wi-Fi data slurp, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Plaintiffs from a number of states in the US are seeking class-action status in their lawsuit. They charge that Google fully intended to intercept information from wireless networks using its Street View cars.

It's alleged that Google violated the Federal Wiretap Act when it slurped up personal data including email messages and passwords from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

US District Judge James Ware said the plaintiffs had provided sufficient statements to allow their case to be heard in court.

Google's request to the judge to reject part of the lawsuit was granted, however. He threw out allegations that the company violated some state wiretap statutes as well as a unfair competition statute claim.

"We believe these claims are without merit and that the court should have dismissed the wiretap claim just as it dismissed the plaintiffs' other claims. We're still evaluating our options at this preliminary stage," Google said in a statement to the WSJ.

In the early hours of this morning, Microsoft's Windows Phone group program manager Reid Kuhn penned a well-timed blog post, in which he noted the "high level of public interest in how and why companies collect Wi-Fi access point information."

Redmond published "relevant portions of the source code" for its own data-slurping software in an effort to appear "transparent" about the company's methods.

To defend Microsoft's database that's being built to serve up location-based services for its Windows Phone 7 and Bing products, Kuhn pointed out that such a data slurp was industry-wide.

"The mobile phones we use for these surveys are only capable of observing the same data points about Wi-Fi access points that any phone, computer or other device connecting to Wi-Fi access points can observe," he said.

However, he also insisted that "the software does not intercept wireless data transmissions from consumers' computers (so called 'payload' data). The software neither observes nor records any information that may contain user content transmitted over a network. At Microsoft, we place a priority on privacy and take steps to help ensure that our products and services protect consumers’ information."

So that's alright then. ®

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