Google’s Street View cars collected some private Wi-Fi data in 2010, spurring investigations and an ongoing class-action lawsuit. flickr / jadjadjad In 2010, Google admitted its Street View cars were collecting too much data. Instead of just getting the bare minimum data needed to map out the locations of Wi-Fi networks, the cars had—by accident, Google insisted—collected “packet” data that contained private user information.

The disclosure led to government probes in both the US and Europe. Those investigations have wound down, at least in the US, but the civil lawsuits over the issue have not gone away.

The Google Wi-Fi incident happened in 2010, a point in history when Internet privacy lawsuits started getting filed at the drop of a hat. Google admitted that it had, at a minimum, made an honest mistake—and so the class-action lawyers pounced, saying that the search giant had violated federal anti-wiretapping laws. In August 2010, the suits were consolidated in the San Jose federal court, which was closest to Google’s headquarters. Google said the case should be thrown out and that old pre-Internet telephone privacy laws don’t apply to this case. But the following year, US District Judge James Ware, who is overseeing the case, disagreed with Google’s argument and ruled that the case can go forward.     

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