Published: Jun 30, 2011 6:55 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 30, 2011 5:55 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal judge has refused Google's plea to dismiss several class-action lawsuits accusing the Internet search giant of illegally collecting online information from unencrypted wireless networks while working on its "Street View" map feature.

Google has acknowledged that its fleet of specialized "Street View" vehicles inadvertently gathered about 600 gigabytes of Wi-Fi data in more than 30 countries while photographing neighborhoods.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company apologized and maintains it never used the data. It also argues it did nothing illegal because the Wi-Fi data was publicly available like radio transmissions.

U.S. District Court Judge James Ware rejected that argument late Wednesday, saying Internet data transmitted wirelessly have the same privacy protections as cell phone conversations.

Google is being investigated by government agencies in the United States and abroad.

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