Google faces probes, lawsuits over Wi-Fi data collection

Robert Clark
31 May 2010

The legal reverberations from Google’s collection of personal Wi-Fi data continue.

The search firm missed a deadline last Thursday for the handover of the data – which it admitted collecting via its Street View car - to German authorities.

It has also been ordered to turn over the information to a US district court, while a key congressional committee has told it not to destroy any data collected, Bloomberg reports.

Under German law, Google is obliged to surrender the data gathered surreptitiously by its Street View cars to the Information Commissioner, BBC Newssaid.

The Information Commissioner (ICO) in Hamburg, Johannes Caspar, said German data protection officers have legal authority to request and see the hard drives.

But Google said that providing the sensitive data to government authorities creates “legal challenges.”

Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director for the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that “calls from some quarters for Google to simply turn over the data to the US or other governments are wrong-headed.

“To allow a government to investigate a privacy breach by further violating privacy is senseless,” she said.

Google has said the Wi-Fi data collection was a mistake and had not been authorized by the firm.

Meanwhile an Oregon district court has issued a restraining order to stop Google from destroying the data it gathered and to turn over the information to the court.

Vicki Van Valin and Neil Mertz, who have sued Google for invasion of privacy on behalf of people in Oregon and Washington, said destroying the data would hurt their ability to prove Google’s wrongdoing.

House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers also requested that Google preserve any information related to its data gathering, Bloomberg said. In a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, he asked the company to keep the data and “implement any safeguards necessary to prevent further dissemination of this information.”

The US FTC has also said it is considering a probe into how Google collects and stores information.

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