Google has lost its appeal against a federal lawsuit which accuses the company of violating a wiretap law when it accidentally collected personal data from households while building its Street View program.
The San Francisco court said in its ruling Tuesday that the data Google captured via unencrypted Wi-Fi networks included "emails, usernames, passwords, images, and documents."
Google has argued its data collection did not violate the federal wiretap law because data transmitted over a Wi-Fi network is an "electronic communication" that is "readily accessible to the general public."
But the appeals judges disagreed, siding with an earlier federal judge. They said "even if it is commonplace for members of the general public to connect to a neighbor\’s unencrypted Wi-Fi network, members of the general public do not mistakenly intercept, store, and decode data transmitted by other devices on the network."
A Google spokesperson said the Internet giant is "disappointed" in the appeals court\’s decision and is considering its "next steps."
The case stems from Google\’s admitted collection of such data, known as "payload data," in more than 30 countries. The data was collected by Google\’s Street View cars, which drove around taking photos for the service, which provides interactive panoramas of city streets. The company said the practice took place between 2008 and 2010.