(Mar. 9, 2009) The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has dismissed a complaint alleging that Google's Street View application invaded homeowners' privacy.
In 2007, Google introduced its Street View application to its maps' features. Street View gives horizontal and panoramic ground level views from a point selected on Google's maps. Google obtained these images by having vehicles drive through localities with a non-stop panoramic digital camera. Aaron and Christine Boring filed suit against Google after they found that an image of their home near Pittsburgh had been placed on the Web. This picture was apparently taken from their driveway, which is on a private street. The Borings alleged invasion of privacy, trespass, negligence, and conversion.
The court rejected the Borings' privacy claim, finding they had failed to state sufficient facts to survive a motion to dismiss. The court noted that such a claim requires a showing that an intrusion caused mental suffering, shame, or humiliation, or that publicity was given to private facts that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. The court found that the Borings never requested Google to remove the image, despite the availability of a procedure to do so. Nor did the Borings file their lawsuit under seal or eliminate their address from the pleadings. (Indeed, the court “Googled” the plaintiff's attorney and found that the case had generated significant publicity of the Borings' names, location, and the Street View images.) The court concluded that the Borings' suffering was less severe than the privacy claim contended. It ruled that the Borings' other claims were similarly unavailing, and dismissed the case. (Boring v. Google, Inc., No. 08-694 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 17, 2009), available at http://artifex.org/~dulles/permanent/boringvgoogledismissal.pdf.)