No Expectation of Privacy

Last year a Pittsburgh couple sued Google in federal court for invasion of privacy because photographic images of their home appeared in Google’s Street View.  They claimed $25k in damages for “mental suffering” and sought removal of the images.  Yesterday the trial court threw out their suit for failing to state a claim–in other words, the facts underlying the suit, even if true, did not violate any legal rights.  The Street View images “capture images of their house beyond signs marked ‘private road.'”  The problem is that if the pictures were taken from someplace where the public has a right to be, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for anything captured in the pictures.  This is not new law, and I hope their lawyer advised them this case was a loser.  I don’t blame the couple for not knowing the law.  U.S. privacy law is a patchwork quilt that leads to much confusion about the scope of protection.  In an ironic corollary–if something totally predictable can be ironic–filing the lawsuit eroded the couple’s privacy more than the Street View images.  The lawsuit contained their home address and a photo of their home appeared on the property assessor’s web site.

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