Every Wi-Fi User in US May Have $10,000 Wiretapping Claim Against Google

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Google Inc's bid to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of violating federal wiretap law when it accidentally collected emails and other personal data while building its popular...
In what may have just become the largest class-action lawsuit in American history, the U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing the appeal of a lower court ruling that Google maps’ “Street View” cars were not exempt from state and federal wiretapping laws.

The cars had vacuumed up Wi-Fi e-mail messages, user passwords, and other communications from 2007 to 2010. With a consolidated class-action lawsuit seeking up to $10,000 for each affected private Wi-Fi user captured by Google, lawyers are about to go national with billions of dollars of claims for potential damages to virtually every U.S. e-mail user.

Wiretapping refers to interception of telephonic voice communications, and it has been strictly regulated by states for over a century and became a federal crime under the “The Communications Act of 1934.” As communications methods became more sophisticated, wiretapping methods followed suit, and the laws regulating wiretapping have come to cover cellular phones and electronic communications, such as e-mail.

 Under federal law, it is illegal and subject to up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for any third party to intercept any telephonic or electronic communication between other individuals. However, if one of the parties to the conversation records or consents to the recording, the interception of the communication is generally not barred under federal law and is also permissible under many state laws. But at least 11 states criminally prohibit recording any conversation, regardless of consent. Continue reading

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