BY Shulamit Shvartsman for Lawyers.comsm
Vicki Van Valin, a resident of Oregon, and Neil Mertz, who lives in Washington state, filed a class action lawsuit against Google. The lawsuit claims Google violated their rights under their states' privacy rights and the federal Wiretap Act when cars Google used to collect data for its Street View tool collected private information from their computers. It's claimed Google used "packet sniffers" to collect information from their home-based Wi-Fi connections.
The suit asks for punitive damages, as well as damages under the Wiretap Act. That's $100 per person for each day their private information was collected, or $10,000 for each member in the class, whichever is greater.
Google's legal problems aren't limited to the US, either. There are reports law enforcement officials in Germany, Spain, and Italy are investigating Google's collection of personal information though open Wi-Fi connections. The investigations are on-going, but Google has admitted to collecting and storing personal information.
Recent reports show Google Street View is taking its cameras - and you - off the streets and into stores. This new technology lets you take a virtual tour and browse the store's shelves from the comfort of your home.
Although it hasn't been unveiled yet, in fact Google had "no comment" when asked about it, there's already discussion about the pros and cons. On one side, it's a convenience for shoppers and free publicity for storeowners. On the other side, there's concern over the privacy rights of storeowners.
The privacy issue may be nothing, really. Apparently, the new tool - like Street View - provides still-shots. It's not as if there's a web cam in the stores! And Google needs a storeowner's permission before it starts taking shots in side the store.
It may only be a rumor anyway. On top of Google's refusal to confirm or deny the new "store view" tool, one report notes only one storeowner has been asked by a "Google photographer" to take pictures. The same report suggests that the photographer used the wrong camera for a "store view" tool.
However, another report says the opposite: More than one retailer has been approached and the photographer used the same type of camera used for the Street View images.
Google Street View, one of the many Google features, enables you to get a 360-degree view of any address. It even lets people virtually stroll down the street and get a crystal clear image of their homes and streets. Google uses cars and bikes fitted with cameras to capture images of real-world locations, which are then added to Google's online maps.
Ahhh, Look at All the Lonely People
Some have used this feature to eagerly scope out their homes, their neighbors' homes, their current girlfriend's/boyfriend's homes, etc. Other users are not too happy with this feature. Sir Paul McCartney, a former Beatle, was livid at this option and demanded that Google remove his home from the site.
"I've always wondered what was over Paul McCartney's fence. It's an open secret in the neighborhood which is his house. He has the sort of gates...and a wall so high you can't walk past and cast a casual glance into the front window. Now thanks to Google Street View, not only have I hurdled the barricades to peek, I have also read the number plates of the cars parked behind his forbidding gates."1
Other than privacy concerns, fears include burglaries or terrorists being able to monitor homes, as well as uncovering illicit affairs, when faces and images, as well as vehicles, can clearly be observed on the Web page. Google has captured many controversial - and embarrassing - images, including a man exiting a sex shop and another vomiting in public.