Judge dismisses Google Street View case

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania family against Google after the company took and posted images of the outside of their house in its Maps service.

The lawsuit, filed in April 2008, drew attention because it sought to challenge Google's right to take street-level photos for its Maps' Street View feature.

On Tuesday, Judge Amy Reynolds Hay from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, granted Google's request for dismissing the lawsuit because "the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under any count."

Aaron and Christine Boring sought compensatory and punitive damages as they alleged, among other things, that Google had invaded their privacy, acted negligently, was unjustly enriched, and trespassed upon their Pittsburgh property, which includes a private road leading to their house.

The Borings also requested that the images in question be removed from the Maps service, and Google complied. In its ruling, Judge Reynolds Hay also declined the Borings' request for a permanent injunction preventing Google from showing their property's photos in Maps. "The Plaintiffs have failed to plead -- much less set out facts supporting -- a plausible claim of entitlement to injunctive relief," the judge wrote.

A Google spokeswoman said the company is pleased with the outcome because it feels the suit was without merit. "Google respects individual privacy. We blur identifiable faces and license plates in Street View and we offer easy-to-use removal tools so users can decide for themselves whether or not they want a given image to appear in Street View. It is unfortunate the parties involved decided to pursue litigation instead of making use of these tools," she said via e-mail.

The Street View images are taken from Google cars equipped with cameras. The photos offer a 360-degree street-level view of some roads and are meant to complement the other Maps views, like satellite, terrain and standard graphics.

Eric Goldman, associate professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and director of its High Tech Law Institute, said the judge's decision was the right one.

"I wasn't impressed with the lawsuit to begin with. Mercifully, the judge was able to kick out the lawsuit before it consumed too much of everyone's time," Goldman said.

Assuming Google's driver made a mistake by entering this private road and taking the photos, the plaintiffs had a number of options to address the situation that didn't involve filing a lawsuit, which was "overkill," he said. "Going to court was a completely disproportionate response to the problem," Goldman said.

The plaintiffs' attorney didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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