Is Google spying on you?

By: Sara Shookman Email
By: Sara Shookman Email

For more information on the lawsuit, click here.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Ever clicked to see the street view of your home on Google maps?

A lawsuit out of Nashville alleges it wasn't just photos that the search engine collected. A class action group says the company wire-tapped into passwords and other information.

The so-called 'wi-spy' controversy could have happened to you.

Erin Threadgill says she's recently changed from her trusting ways online, and locked up her wireless network.

"For the longest time, I didn't have it secure," said Threadgill. "I wanted to make sure it was protected." Protected from people like Google.

The Internet giant is accused of breaking state and federal wiretap laws -- as its fleet gathered photos around the country for Google Map's street view.

"It turns out that as they drove along, they were recording everything that was going through your network at that time. It might include your password, it might include email, it might include websites you visited," said Internet law expert Glenn Reynolds, a professor of law at the University of Tennessee.

If you can see a street view pic of your home or business, and had a open wi-fi signal from 2007 to 2010, you could be at risk.

"It's kinda scary to think people have that kind of access to your information and to your home," said Threadgill.

Generally, intercepting wire or electronic communications is a crime. But there are exceptions involving consent, user agreements and service provider maintenance.

Google is arguing it was a mistake, but not illegal to use networks open to the public.

"I think Google has a lot of risk in this case," said Reynolds. "I think their legal position looks pretty weak."

Reynolds says encrypting your wi-fi signal isn't foolproof, but it's a good defense. "It's just like most burglars can break into your house in five to 10 minutes, too, but you still want to lock the door."

When it comes to locking up your online information, "[You] need to understand what are the privacy policies and what am I agreeing to in that user agreement where I check the 'yes' box," said Richard Lambert with the FBI.

If you don't like the terms, don't use it. "There's a substitute for everything on the web," said Reynolds.

Reynolds says that if you don't want your home pictured on Google street view, you can write them, and they could blur the image.

If you believe you've been violated by the Google street view project, you can contact lead attorney Lieff Cabraser by clicking on the link above.


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