Google is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider a Sept. 10 ruling that found it potentially liable for wiretapping when it secretly intercepted signals from open WiFi routers. The company says the decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit could create "confusion" about which over-the-air signals are protected by the Wiretap Act, including broadcast television. The court nailed Google for eavesdropping with its Street View mapping cars. The vehicles were equipped with WiFi-sniffing hardware to record the names and MAC addresses of routers to improve Google location-specific services. But the cars also gathered snippets of content.
Google did wrong here, and everybody loves to kick it around. But we can say Google was wrong (and demand punishment) without calling into play laws from the analogue telephone world. Make the punishment fit the crime here. Google is right; finding it guilty of wiretapping has unintended, dangerous consequences. You don't want to slap a wiretapping violation on some poor 16-year-old who pirates a Miley Cyrus song. You might argue that listening to Miley Cyrus is punishment enough. Mitch Wagner