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Google Street View Tresspassed: Verdict Worth "One Sweet Dollar" Say Plaintiffs

The Google Maps used by Flight Update won't show the plen's path in the sky, but they will denote its current position. You can zoom in, as well. Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

(Google)
PITTSBURGH (CBS/AP) Every principle has its price.

Google Inc. has acknowledged that it trespassed when it took a photo of a Pittsburgh-area house for its Street View service. However, the search giant will only have to pay $1 in damages to the couple who sued.

"We are pleased that this lawsuit has finally ended with plaintiffs' acknowledgment that they are entitled to only $1," Google said in a statement to The Associated Press, adding that its ability to continue the Street View feature is unaffected.

Gregg Zegarelli, the attorney for Aaron and Christine Boring of Franklin Park, Pa., said his clients are satisfied to have made the point that Google trespassed and realize they "can't control a company such as Google that operates worldwide."

"This is about right and wrong. Maybe my client and I are hopeless romantics, but I suppose some people said the same thing in 1950 about a male executive calling female staff 'sweetie/honey,' or African Americans just sitting a few seats farther in the back of the bus," Zegarelli said.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Cathy Bissoon on Thursday signed off on a consent judgment, a mutually agreed-upon verdict, between the Mountain View, Calif. company and the couple.

The Borings said in a statement released by Zegarelli that the amount of the judgment isn't the issue.

"This is one sweet dollar of vindication," the statement said. "Google could have just sent us an apology letter in the very beginning, but chose to try to prove they had a legal right to be on our land. We are glad they finally gave up."

Google's Street View feature lets users view homes and businesses as though they are driving along a three-dimensional street. It's assembled by having cars with digital cameras collect images that are then paired with Google's map data.

The Borings sued in 2008, saying their privacy was violated when Google took a photo of their home. They said the images could only have been obtained if the driver traveled about 1,000 feet up a private road clearly marked "No Trespassing."

Google said people can have such photos removed upon request and argued that the images of the Boring home were no more invasive than those found on a county real estate tax website.

Since its launch in 2007, Google's Street View has expanded to more than 100 cities in 33 countries, prompting privacy concerns along the way.

Greek officials asked for more safeguards before its streets were photographed, and some English villagers protested by forming a human chain to stop a camera van.

In November, Google bowed to pressure from German residents and made that country the only one in the world where people can ask in advance to have images of their homes excluded from the Street View feature.

  • Barry Leibowitz

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