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Judge permits class action over Google data theft

Google could finally be getting its comeuppance over the Wi-fi sniffing fiasco that saw its Street View cars chugging around the planet stealing people's private data.

A judge in San Francisco, hearing Google's plea that a class-action suit against it be thrown out, in fact decided that the search giant may have broken U.S. federal wire tapping laws.

Google initially claimed its Street View cars weren't collecting data from unsecured Wi-fi networks. Under pressure it said pehaps they were but it was a mistake and the data was useless anyway. It later admitted the data included complete emails, bank account details, passwords and all manner of stuff.

Its attempted defence in San Francisco was that anyone could have snaffled up the data as the Wi-fi networks is was spying on were unsecured.

"Anyone could have robbed the bank, m'lud. They left the front door open."

District Court Judge James Ware didn't buy the argument, pointing out that Google still needed a fair bit of kit to carry out the operation. "Merely pleading that a network is unencrypted does not render that network readily accessible to the general public," Judge Ware said. He wrote: "Defendant's contention that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim for violation of the Wiretap Act, as Plaintiffs plead that their networks were 'open' and 'unencrypted,' is misplaced."

The judge did throw out some claims against Google, but the outfit remains miffed. "We believe these claims are without merit and that the Court should have dismissed the Wiretap claim just as it dismissed the plaintiffs' other claims," the firm whined in a statement.