[LINK] Google Wifi Interception Breached US Law

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed Sep 18 05:49:35 AEST 2013

                          E P I C   A l e r t
Volume 20.18                                         September 17, 2013


[1] Federal Court Upholds Privacy Protection for Wi-Fi Communications

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld a lower court 
ruling against Google's collection of private Wi-Fi communications in 
the company's "Street View" program. The lawsuit, Joffe v. Google, 
alleges that Google's ongoing interception of Wi-Fi payload data as 
Street View trucks roamed the US violated several laws, including the 
federal Wiretap Act. The lower court rejected Google's argument that 
interception of communications sent over "open" Wi-Fi networks was 
allowed under the Wiretap Act. Specifically, the court rejected 
Google's theory that such communications were "readily accessible to 
the general public" simply because they were unencrypted. The Ninth 
Circuit's ruling and emphasized the importance of protecting the 
privacy of electronic communications.

The Ninth Circuit decision made clear that unencrypted Wi-Fi 
communications are not "readily accessible to the general public"
under the ordinary meaning of the phrase. These communications are 
"geographically limited and fail to travel far beyond the walls of the 
home or office where the access point is located." And for nearby 
devices, the "payload" data transmitted over a Wi-Fi network is only 
accessible "with some difficulty." Even in locations where individuals 
can connect to certain unencrypted networks, "members of the general 
public do not typically mistakenly intercept, store, and decode data 
transmitted by other devices on the network." 

EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case, urging the court 
to uphold legal protections for Wi-Fi communications, and discussing 
both the intent of the federal law and the operation of a typical
home Wi-Fi network. Many of EPIC's technical arguments, including key 
sources, were discussed in the court's opinion. This landmark opinion 
resolves a fundamental issue of electronic privacy law in favor of
everyday Wi-Fi users. Google has not announced whether will appeal the 
case to the US Supreme Court.

EPIC: Joffe v. Google

Ninth Circuit Court:  Opinion in Joffe v. Google (Sep. 10, 2013)     

EPIC:  "Friend of the Court" Brief in Joffe v. Google (Mar. 30, 2012)     

EPIC:  Google Street View


Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 6916                        http://about.me/roger.clarke
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law            University of N.S.W.
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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