Connecticut Attorney General Demands Google’s Street View Data

Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Connecticut’s attorney general has demanded that Google turn over data from unsecured wireless networks collected by its Street View cars, saying the information is necessary to determine whether the company broke state laws.

    While privacy officials in Canada have viewed the Wi-Fi data collected by Google, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Thursday that to his knowledge, no federal or state authorities in the U.S. have viewed it. Google has repeatedly apologized for the international data breach, which the company says was inadvertent.

    Google has until next Friday to respond to the civil investigative demand, the equivalent of a subpoena, issued for data that Street View cars collected in Connecticut.

    “We need to verify what confidential information the company surreptitiously and wrongfully collected and stored,” Blumenthal said Friday in a statement released to media outlets. “We are compelling the company to grant my office access to data to determine whether e-mails, passwords, Web-browsing and other information was improperly intercepted, for the same reasons that other law enforcement agencies abroad have done so.

    “Reviewing this information is vital because Google’s story changed, first claiming only fragments were collected, then acknowledging entire e-mails.”

    The Federal Trade Commission closed its inquiry into the data breach in October, saying it was satisfied with privacy reforms Google announced.

    The decision was blasted by online privacy advocates, and privacy regulators in other countries continue to scrutinize the privacy breach.

    Google has promised that it will never use in any product the 600 gigabytes of data — roughly equivalent to 300 million printed pages — it collected from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in homes and businesses around the world dating back to 2007.

    “As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting all Wi-Fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities,” Google said in a written statement to the Mercury News Thursday. “We did not want and have never used the payload data in any of our products and services. We want to delete this data as soon as possible and will continue to work with the authorities to determine the best way forward, as well as to answer their further questions and concerns.”

    Privacy advocates said Thursday they were pleased that Blumenthal, a Democrat who was elected to the U.S. Senate last month, is pushing the issue.

    “Connecticut sounds very serious about doing something, doing something more than just a slap on the wrist,” said John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group that has asked for congressional hearings on the issue. Blumenthal “is going to be a junior senator, but he may carry some of this with him to Washington. Who knows, he might be the guy who gets some kind of a hearing” in Congress.

    Blumenthal’s statement referred to potential penalties against Google.

    “We will fight to compel Google to come clean — granting my office access to improperly collected materials and protecting confidentiality, as the company has done in Canada and elsewhere,” Blumenthal said.

    Contact Mike Swift at 408-271-3648 or [email protected]

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