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Aaron and Christine Boring say they enjoyed the, well, quiet life in the countryside outside Pittsburgh – until Google showed up in the driveway. The couple is suing the Mountain View, Calif., search giant for invading its privacy by snapping a photo of the Boring house for Google Street View, a map feature that allows users to see pictures of streets. It caused the Borings “mental suffering and diminished value of their property,” according to the complaint filed in Pennsylvania state court on Wednesday. They’re seeking at least $25,000 in damages. “I’m convinced if you look at the actions of Google – for a company that says, ‘Don’t do evil’ – it appears that they don’t have proper internal controls on the people driving around taking these pictures,” said Dennis Moskal, the couple’s attorney. The Borings claim that Google drove down Oakridge Lane – a private road owned by residents – and then further trespassed into their driveway to take a photo that includes their pool. “If you were sitting in the pool, you’d see a Google vehicle right there close enough to hand them a drink,” said Moskal. “It’s fortuitous that no one was in the pool.” Google spokesman Larry Yu said the company is “looking into the details” of the Boring lawsuit. He said it’s the first time Google’s been sued over the year-old Street View project. Lawyers say they don’t think suing Google over Street View photos will become a huge trend. Like any member of the public, Google is allowed to take pictures from public streets. “The image of a home as viewed from a public street, you have a First Amendment right to publish that photo,” said Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Now, if you trespass, there may be an invasion-of-privacy issue.” But Bankston, who said he opposes the Street View program from a social norms standpoint, said there may be some instances in which Google will be held liable for its photo-happy ways. For instance, Bankston pointed to a 1964 Alabama case, Daily Times-Democrat v. Graham, in which a newspaper was held liable for printing a photo of a woman whose skirt had been blown over her head, even though the picture was taken in a public place, a county fair. A judge found the photo was not essential to the story. In the Borings’ case, Bankston said, the couple may have difficulty proving damages. Google’s Yu said that the company has a policy of only taking photos from public streets. He also said that concerned citizens can contact the company if they want a photo taken down. Moskal’s clients didn’t do that because the tech company needs to learn a lesson, he said. “The reason was, that’s what Google wants; then they don’t have to have any accountability,” Moskal said. “What’s to motivate them to change and put in better internal controls?” Moskal declined to comment on how his firm, Zegarelli Law Group, got involved in the case. He also declined to say whether he’s seeking to turn it into a class action. The Google photo is not the first time that the Borings’ house has been photographed and put on the Web. The Allegheny County Assessor’s Office makes one available on its Web site. Moskal did not return e-mails seeking comment on that photo. The EFF’s Bankston, an early critic of Street View, has been exposed by Google as well. Last year, Google cameras caught him smoking a cigarette on the street. This article originally appeared in The Recorder, a publication of ALM.

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