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Federal Appellate Court Upholds Privacy Protection for Wi-Fi Communications

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld a lower court ruling against Google in a case arising out of the Street View interception of private Wi-Fi communications. The lawsuit alleges that Google's ongoing interception of Wi-Fi payload data through its Street View program violated several laws, including the federal Wiretap Act. The court rejected Google's arguments that the interception was permissible. The court said that Google's interpretation could have the absurd result of rendering private communications, like email, unprotected simply because the recipient fails to encrypt their Wi-Fi network. Furthermore, the court explained that the unencrypted nature of the Wi-Fi networks did not make the data transmitted over them "readily accessible to the general public" because the data was still difficult for an ordinary person to intercept. 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 W-Fi network. For more information, see EPIC: Ben Joffe v. Google and EPIC: Google Street View.

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