The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Google, leaving the company to face lawsuits accusing it of violating a federal wiretapping law by secretly collecting personal data while developing its Street View maps.
The justices left intact a federal appeals court ruling that the U.S. Wiretap Act protects the privacy of information on unencrypted in-home Wi-Fi networks.
Google, the world's most-used Internet search engine, is accused in class-action lawsuits of gathering e-mails, user names and passwords while using a fleet of camera-equipped vehicles that drove around the country to collect images for Street View.
Google has apologized for collecting the personal information, while saying it didn't violate the law. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has faced government investigations around the world over its data-gathering practices.
The Wiretap Act bars the unauthorized interception of wire and electronic communications. At the Supreme Court, Google argued that the Wi-Fi networks fit within an exception in the Wiretap Act for radio signals.