SCOTUS denies Google’s request to dismiss a lawsuit concerning its most controversial data collection program
Google’s decision to use vehicles meant to map roads for its Street View project to gather emails, passwords, and other personal information from unprotected WiFi networks continues to haunt it. The Supreme Court has denied its request to dismiss a lawsuit concerning the practice despite its numerous apologies and fines.
The company paid $7 million in fines to a collective 38 states for the same issue, and has said that none of the information it gathered was used in a product or service. Google seems to think that this is enough to make up for the program despite its best efforts to hide it and its effects from the government, as Pando’s Yasha Levine wrote in his coverage of the program:
It was all part of the original program design: Google had equipped its Street View cars with surveillance gear designed to intercept and vacuum up all the wireless network communication data that crossed their path. An FCC investigation showing that the company knowingly deployed Street View’s surveillance program, and then had analyzed and integrated the data that it had intercepted.
Most disturbingly, when its Street View surveillance program was uncovered by regulators, Google pulled every crisis management trick in the book to confuse investors, dodge questions, avoid scrutiny, and prevent the public from finding out the truth. The company’s behavior got so bad that the FCC fined it for obstruction of justice.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to dismiss the lawsuit against Google might allow the company to finally defend the Street View program to the public instead of to the lawmakers and government officials tasked with holding it accountable for its actions. Not that it’s done a particularly good job of doing that, anyway, as I wrote when Google first appealed to SCOTUS:
Google hasn’t offered an honest defense of its Street View program in all the years that government officials have been investigating its systematic erosion of consumer privacy. The company claims that the information gathered from public Wi-Fi networks was collected by accident, but then analyzed that very data it had intercepted. It argues that any decision against its right to collect that information could further endanger the privacy of millions of people, but seems to think that its attempts to gather personal information should be protected by the same laws it hopes to undermine. Now Google wants to bring the Supreme Court into the mix.
Perhaps the company could use Street View to find the “don’t be evil” principles it once held.
Maybe the company will take the chance to finally defend the programs without hiding behind dubious intentions, deliberate misdirection, and damned upsetting attempts to gather more information than it can already access — which includes our location, emails, messages, and who knows what else — without trying to take some responsibility for a program designed specifically to invade the privacy of others.
I wouldn’t hold my breath.