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Canadian Wi-Spy decision shows need for Congressional hearings

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Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Canadian Wi-Spy decision shows need for Congressional hearings

    SANTA MONICA, CA —  The Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s announcement today that Google’s Wi-Spying with its Street View cars broke the law demonstrates the need for U.S. Congressional hearings into the scandal, Consumer Watchdog said.

    According to Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart: “Our investigation shows that Google did capture personal information – and, in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as complete e-mails. This incident was a serious violation of Canadians’ privacy rights.”

    She said the private data was gathered because of a “a careless error – one that could easily have been avoided.” Australian privacy officials have also found Google’s Wi-Spying violated the law.

    “Officials around the world are cracking down on the Internet giant’s Wi-Spy incident and we need Congress to make Google executives answer publicly, under oath, for the scandal here at home,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog project.

    The Wi-Spy scandal broke last spring when Google responded to questions from German data protection officials about what their Street View cars were doing. First Google said they were merely mapping Wi-Fi network locations for  use in their location services. Then Google acknowledged it had been gathering “payload data” — emails and passwords — from unencrypted private networks, but claimed it was a mistake.  Consumer Watchdog called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, sought a probe by the state attorneys general (since launched) and called for Congressional hearings. There is also a class action suit over the scandal pending in Federal Court.

    A poll conducted on Consumer Watchdog’s behalf in July found a significant majority of Americans  troubled by the revelations that Google’s Street View cars gathered communications from home Wi-Fi networks, and they want stronger legal protection to preserve their online privacy. Nearly two-thirds of those polled (65%) say the Wi-Spy scandal is one of the things that “worries them most” or a “great deal” with another 20% saying it “raises some concern” when considering Internet issues.

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    Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, Ca.  Consumer Watchdog’s website is www.consumerwatchdog.org. Visit our new Google Privacy and Accountability Project website: http://insidegoogle.com <http://insidegoogle.com> .

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