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Google Street View investigated in multi-state US probe

by Tarinder Sandhu on 23 June 2010, 17:52

Tags: Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)

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US states probe Google’s Street View

States in the US led by Connecticut have launched an investigation into Google’s collection of Wi-Fi data, as global probes into Google Street View continue.

Google admits its Street View cars ‘accidentally’ gathered data from individuals’ and businesses’ unsecured Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries.  It blames a rogue code in the software for the error.

The search giant collected the data as it logged Wi-Fi hotspots, which it says was designed to improve location-based services.  Google has since ceased to collect the information but never justified how the software came to be included in the Street View system, blaming a ‘single engineer’. 

Getting to the bottom

The US investigation seeks to get to the bottom of Google’s working practices including finding out why the operation took place, who inserted the code and why such private information was stored.

The state of Connecticut is leading the investigation, headed up by its attorney general Richard Blumenthal.

Blumenthal has demanded copies of the company’s internal procedures relating to Street View as well as details of how and when Google realised its cars had captured sensitive and private data.  He is also keen to find out why the firm was recording the quality and signal strength of personal and business wireless networks in the first place.

30-state investigation

So far thirty states have signed up to the investigation and Blumenthal expects more to join.  He has branded the accidental collection of data as a "deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy."

Blumenthal champions the consumers’ right to know why their personal information, possibly including emails and passwords, was collected by the search giant and why.

French data protection agency CNIL is the latest to insist on seeing details of the data collected, with similar investigations under way in Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and Spain.

Google’s offered to delete the sensitive data.

HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

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Maybe people will use the encryption facility that's built into all routers…
I fail to see what all the fuss is about? Blown out of proportion IMO.

If worst comes to worst, Google will just pull out of US.:)
I'm confused at why they haven't already deleted the ‘sensitive’ data, if it was collected accidentally. I'm also confused at what exactly they've done wrong, legally speaking. They're allowed to take photos of the streets because they're public places and anyone could do it. So.. why is it specifically a problem to ('accidentally') pick up ‘sensitive’ data that people are broadcasting into public places without encryption? If you gave your debit card to a friend to get some money out for you, then realised they didn't know your pin so shouted it to them down the street, it's hardly a crime to be passing by and hear that sensitive information. Unsecured Wifi is IMO the same principle; many devices will automatically try to connect to Wifi networks.
I'm confused at why they haven't already deleted the ‘sensitive’ data, if it was collected accidentally.

Probably because if any of the US states decide to take action against the Googleplex then deleting the data from their activities is likely to cause phrases like “destruction of evidence” or “obstruction of justice” to be bruited about.
I like this bit “Google’s offered to delete the sensitive data. ”

So if the robbers offer to the bank the stolen money back, that's all right then?

Google, like many very large companies, is getting a bit big for it's boots and perhaps it's time for a formal slapping down. It “accidentally” collected all this data, did it? And then accidentally stored it all as well? I wonder if the judge would accept that I accidentally pocketed all that cash when I accidentally wandered into a bank with a shotgun, when I thought I was out hunting rabbits, and accidentally stored it all in a big boxed I accidentally buried in a secret location.