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Arizona Attorney General Leads Multi-State Fight Against Google 'Wi-Spy' Settlement

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is urging a federal judge to toss out a class-action settlement with Google, claiming a lawsuit involving the Street View mapping technology blamed for massive violations of consumer privacy still owes damages.

Joined by eight other state attorneys general, Brnovich's filing Jan. 24 urged a federal judge to reject the tech giant's $13 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit that later became known as "Wi-Spy."

The decade-old lawsuit, described as biggest wiretap case in the United States at the time, blamed Google’s Street View mapping technology for massive violations of consumer privacy that threatened the Internet giant with billions of dollars in damages. Google reached a settlement last July over Wi-Spy then judicial approval in October where the company agreed to delete all collected data and educate people on how to set up encrypted wireless networks.

According to Brnovich's filing, the company had already made those promises in a 2013 agreement with 39 attorneys general. In that agreement, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected Google's argument that it was legal to intercept open Wi-Fi networks because they were akin to AM/FM radio transmissions.

The court's conclusion that the federal Wiretap Act applied meant that if Google went to trial to fight the allegations and lost, it could be hit with $10,000 in damages for every violation.

Brnovich says the final settled terms announced last October do not offer compensation to people whose confidential data was captured off their Wi-Fi networks by Google's Street View vehicles. Instead, the deal pays out to privacy rights organizations and those directly involved in the case.

Brnovich submitted the filing, joined by attorneys general in Alabama, Alaska, Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana and Louisiana.

The final hearing on the case is Feb. 28 in San Francisco.

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Heather van Blokland was a host at KJZZ from 2016 to 2021.