An East Texas attorney has filed a class action lawsuit against Google, claiming the company illegally stole data from Wi-Fi networks while collecting data for Google Maps Street View.
Google got in trouble earlier this year for its Street View collection methods -- basically driving around cars equipped with special cameras -- and the company was the target of investigations in Europe and another lawsuit from plaintiffs in Oregon and Washington.
The East Texas lawsuit, filed by attorney Eric Findlay on November 24 in federal court in Tyler, deals specifically with "data scrapping" from Texas homes and businesses, and the suit represents "All persons located in the State of Texas who owned and operated an open Wi-Fi network...anytime between April 2007 and May 2010."
The lawsuit estimates the numbers in the class are "at least in the thousands."
From the lawsuit:
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Google also intentionally included distinct and specifically designed software...to intercept and record the information that the Wi-Fi transmitters were transmitting as Google cars were driving past homes and businesses. That information was then stored by Google for purposes only known to Google at this time. The information intercepted and recorded included entire emails, email passwords and other private data belonging to the owners and occupants of the homes and businesses that Google cars passed.
Google admitted to the problem back in May, after the "data protection authority" in Hamburg, Germany asked to audit Street View Data. On its Google blog, the company said: "But it's now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open Wi-Fi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products...Maintaining people's trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short."
A little more than a month ago, Google announced it would stop scanning for Wi-Fi networks with its Street View cars.
The lawsuit is seeking $100 a day for each "violation" or $10,000, whichever is greater, for each member of the class.