A federal judge has found that Google can be held liable for damages for secretly intercepting data on open Wi-Fi routers. The ruling is a serious legal setback for the search giant over activity it has engaged in across the United States for years.
That decision, the first of its kind, was handed down late Wednesday by a Silicon Valley federal judge presiding over nearly a dozen combined lawsuits seeking damages from Google for eavesdropping on open Wi-Fi networks from its Street View mapping cars. The vehicles, which rolled through neighborhoods across the country, were equipped with Wi-Fi–sniffing hardware to record the names and MAC addresses of routers to improve Google location-specific services. But the cars also secretly gathered snippets of Americans’ data.