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Google to Supremes: End this Street View fight once and for all

Company asks top court to hear appeal, citing danger to common security measures

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Google is taking the battle over its Street View data collection to the US Supreme Court, seeking a final decision on the legality of its Wi-Fi snooping activity.

The company has filed a petition (obtained by Wired) asking the Supremes to hear its appeal of a decision by the US Ninth Circuit court of appeals.

The case dates back to Google's infamous 2010 data-slurping scandal, in which the company's Street View image-collection vehicles were found to be gathering data from local Wi-Fi networks as they passed by.

While Google said that the collection was accidental and that the collected data was not used by the company and would be destroyed, the incident brought a mountain of litigation to the search advertising giant.

Google faced scrutiny from both state governments and the EU over the matter, and in the UK the company was charged with violating the Data Protection Act. In the US, the company faced charges of violating the US Wiretapping Act which the company is arguing against.

Specifically, Google is arguing against a decision by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which denies the company protection under a portion of the US Wiretap Act, which excludes listening in on radio transmissions.

Google has argued that Wi-Fi data traffic should be protected under the act, while the Ninth Circuit ruled that the protections would only be applicable to "auditory broadcasts." Google is asking the court to hear its appeal, arguing that a ruling could hamper the security industry.

"IT professionals routinely use the same kind of technology as Google's Street View cars did to collect packet data in order to secure company networks," Google said in the filing.

"And unlike Google, which never used the payload data it collected, security professionals also parse and analyze the data collected from wired and wireless networks, including networks operated by other persons or entities, to identify vulnerabilities in and potential attacks on the networks they protect."

That Google has appealed, the ruling does not necessarily mean the case will be argued before the Supreme Court.

The case still faces review in which justices could decline to hear the case and send the matter back to the appeals court. If accepted by the court, a hearing for oral arguments would then need to be scheduled, following which the Supreme Court would render its decision. ®

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