US probes Google Street View data grabs (Update)

Jun 21, 2010
Picture taken on March 2010 shows the camera of a street view car, used to photograph whole streets. The attorney general of Connecticut is looking into whether Google broke the law by capturing people's personal data from wireless networks while Street View bicycles and cars mapped streets.

The attorney general of the US state of Connecticut is looking into whether Google broke the law by capturing people's personal data from wireless networks while Street View bicycles and cars mapped streets.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced Monday that his office will lead a multistate probe of "Google's deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy," which has drawn ire and scrutiny in several countries.

"Street View cannot mean Complete View -- invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications," Blumenthal said.

People have a right to know what information Google gleaned, how it was done and why, according to Blumenthal. He also wanted the Internet giant to detail what safeguards are in place to fix the situation.

"While we hope Google will continue to cooperate, its response so far raises as many questions as it answers," Blumenthal said.

"Our investigation will consider whether laws may have been broken and whether changes to state and federal statutes may be necessary."

Blumenthal has asked Google to explain how and wed wireless networks and why they recorded the quality of wireless networks they passed.

"It was a mistake for us to include code in our software that collected payload data, but we believe we didn't break any US laws," a Google spokesman said in response to an AFP inquiry.

"We’re working with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns."

France last week joined the list of countries to focus investigations on Google for gathering personal data as its Street View bikes and cars photographed cities across the world for its free online mapping service.

The French data protection agency CNIL said it was examining private data collected for Street View, including emails and possibly banking details, to decide if the firm should face criminal charges or other sanctions.hen it learned its Street View bicycles and cars were capturing data from unencrypt

Google said it had also handed data to privacy authorities in Spain and Germany for analysis.

Canada's privacy commissioner is probing the collection of data by Street View vehicles, while police in both New Zealand and Australia said this month they would investigate the Internet giant over alleged privacy breaches.

In Europe, Germany, Austria, Italy and France were among the countries investigating whether their citizens' privacy had been breached by the California-based company.

Street View lets users view panoramic street scenes on Google Maps and take a virtual "walk" through cities such as New York, Paris or Hong Kong.

The service, which began in 2006, first came in for criticism for threatening the privacy of people caught -- sometimes in embarrassing situations -- in the photos taken by cars cruising cities in over 30 countries.

But when it emerged that Google's cars and bikes had also been gathering fragments of personal data sent over unsecured Wi-Fi systems, legal action and official probes were quickly announced around the world.

Google has gone on record saying it was cooperating with authorities in France and elsewhere and would delete data if legally obliged.

"Our ultimate objective is to delete the data consistent with our legal obligations and in consultation with the appropriate authorities," Google told AFP last week.

Google said last month it was halting the collection of WiFi network information after saying it had mistakenly gathered personal data.

On June 1 it said it had deleted private wireless data mistakenly collected in Austria, Denmark and Ireland.

It had insisted previously that it was only collecting WiFi network names and addresses with the Street View cars.

The company said it has had experts examine its data-gathering software and shared its findings with data protection authorities.

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User comments : 5

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stndspec
5 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2010
unencrypted = public domain, and determining strength of wireless signals is what ALL wireless devices do. Mr. Blumenthal wants to know what Google will do to create safeguards, but this is such an absurd and downright ignorant demand. How about people and businesses use a password for starters? Most modern cel phones with wifi enabled are scanning non-stop for signals and determining strength, when they find ones unsecured they even connect! But other people can't see into these devices b/c they are using standard encryption. It'd be very different if Google was hacking into systems, but as it is they gathered free information. Seems an understandably healthy paranoia of a mass info gathering is mixing with disproportionate ignorance and fears. Good fences, good neighbors and all that ya know?

Coldstatic
5 / 5 (1) Jun 22, 2010
I concur, I have a crazy ass looking password for my wireless network, i don't even have it memorized i have to find the one piece of paper its written on in a random filing box. I recently read a document on Bluetooth and how easy that is to manipulate... people just need to take some very basic steps to protect themselves and their devices.
bfast
not rated yet Jun 22, 2010
"Don't be evil". People aren't expecting Google to be tapping their wireless networks. People shouldn't have to worry about what a company does when their motto is "Don't be evil."
zealous
5 / 5 (1) Jun 22, 2010
"Don't be evil" is one thing, but you know what motto I live by? "Don't be stupid" as in if i don't want someone to look at info I am sending over OPEN PUBLIC AIR WAVES I'm going to encrypt it and use MAC based access methods with a complicated passphrase that no human can remember. And since when did people stop taking personal responsibilty for theirselves and property, does everyone expect someone else to protect their property?

P.S. There is never too much security.
Aloken
5 / 5 (1) Jun 22, 2010
I have to agree with zealous, don't broadcast your SSID, use decent encyprion (not WEP), a good key and mac filters.

We are (supposedly) responsible for what we do, if I try to drive a car without knowing how to (and without a license) and crash, not only will I have to pay for the repairs but I will also be sued and probably jailed for being an irresponsible bastard.

I'm not saying people should be punished for not protecting their networks properly, but they really shouldn't be able to punish someone else for that.

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