Google Wins Street View Privacy Lawsuit - InformationWeek

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2/18/2009
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Google Wins Street View Privacy Lawsuit

A Pennsylvania judge said Google didn't violate the Boring family's privacy rights by taking pictures of their residence from a private road and publishing the images online.

A Pennsylvania judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Google for invasion of privacy, vindicating the company's Google Maps Street View image-collection practices.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pennsylvania residents Aaron and Christine Boring, who claimed that Google violated their privacy rights by taking pictures of their residence from a private road and publishing the images online.

Last May, Google filed a motion to dismiss the case that disputed the Borings' privacy claim, questioned the Boring's claim of mental suffering, and chided the couple for seeking to protect their privacy without taking steps to make their public court filings private.

"Plaintiffs have drawn the public eye upon themselves and the view of their home they claim is private," Google's motion states. "Plaintiffs did not seek to file their Complaint under seal, they unnecessarily included their street address in the Complaint, and they did not ask Google to remove the images of their property before they filed suit."

Judge Amy Reynolds Hay cited this very line of reasoning in her dismissal of the case. Noting that the Borings failed to substantiate the severity and offensiveness of Google's alleged invasion of privacy, she points out that the Borings "have drawn attention to themselves" and that "they have allowed the relevant images to remain in Google Street View, despite the availability of a procedure for having them removed from view."

"Furthermore, they have failed to bar others' access to the images by eliminating their address from the pleadings, or by filing this action under seal," the judge's opinion states.

Eric Goldman, associate professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law, observes that while he considered the Borings' lawsuit "a silly publicity stunt," he is bothered by the judge's circular reasoning with regard to the couple's failure to file the suit under seal.

"I was a little troubled by the latter point, which seemed circular to me -- plaintiffs bringing intrusion into seclusion lawsuits unavoidably thrust themselves into the public eye, whether they want to do so or not," he said in a blog post on Tuesday. "This is especially true for anyone suing Google. As a result, it's not fair to hold that consequence against plaintiffs."

In any event, Google's legal team has one less thing to worry about.

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