ITIF Files Amicus Brief in Google Street View Case

October 7, 2013

WASHINGTON (October 7, 2013) -In an amicus brief filed with the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) urged the Court to reconsider the decision in Joffe v. Google, also known as the Street View Case, due to erroneous assumptions made by the Court and the deleterious impact the ruling will have on all aspects of the economy that rely on wireless technology infrastructure.

Google's Street View program collected unencrypted Wi-Fi communications during its mapping activities of public streets. A class action suit was filed arguing that the company violated the federal Wiretap Act which states that intentionally intercepting an electronic communication is subject to criminal and civil liability. Google filed a motion to dismiss the suit since the Wiretap Act exempts communications accessible to the general public, such as unencrypted radio communications.

The Court denied Google's motion and found that Wi-Fi communications are not subject to the radio exemption and that unencrypted Wi-Fi communications are not accessible to the general public.

"The Court's decision is based on incorrect factual assumptions regarding Wi-Fi communications," says Daniel Castro, Senior Analyst for ITIF. "The standards for Wi-Fi networks make clear that users do not have an expectation of privacy on unencrypted wireless networks. That is why the designers built an encryption option into the protocol."

In the brief, ITIF argues the Court's ruling imperils standard practices by IT professionals who analyze unencrypted Wi-Fi traffic to manage network security and optimize network performance.

"The ruling calls into legal question practices used by IT professionals every day in virtually every industry, including hospitals, banks, and retailers, to secure wireless networks," Castro adds. "The unintended consequences of this decision will therefore reduce the ability of companies to protect the security of their networks and make wireless networks more susceptible to intrusion."

Read the brief.

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The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote public policies to advance technological innovation and productivity internationally, in Washington, and in the states. Recognizing the vital role of technology in ensuring prosperity, ITIF focuses on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues. Learn more at www.itif.org.

Contact: Samantha Greene
Email: sgreene@itif.org
Phone: (202) 626 5744