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California Offers First Test Case for Google’s Robot Cars

By , FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM

Wed, May 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm

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More Americans are starting to pay attention to the lack of privacy while online.

Two events that have been part of this awakening:

1) News that Google’s Street View picture-snapping cars also collected private information from homes it passed by.

2) The constant difficulty of maintaining proper privacy settings on Facebook (have you tried to find the privacy settings tab lately?)

Now comes California, usually first in the nation in trends of all kinds, looking at a problem soon to be faced by every other state in the nation. Should it pass a state law that allows robot-driven cars to pararde through its streets?

The obvious beneficiary of this is Google, which wants to deploy the photo-snapping cars without human drivers.

Google is already testing such cars now.

California Senate Bill 1298 is now up for grabs in the State House after unanimous passage in the state Senate. The bill permits “autonomous vehicles” on California roadways.

In a protest letter to the California House Speaker, the group Consumer Watchdog seeks to kill portions of the bill. The group leaders write that the company lost its trustworthiness with the so-called “Wi-Spy scandal, the largest wiretapping effort ever, in which Google’s Street View cars sucked up emails, passwords and other data from private Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries around the world.” Click here to read a report from the group.

Google was fined $25,000 by the Federal Communications Commission for obstructing its investigation, Consumer Watchdog reminded the speaker. The company first blamed an engineer, but the FCC later determined that the company was aware of the operation.

The group wants any new law to ban the collection of private data.

The bill is a test case. Even if the House passes the bill, Gov. Jerry Brown would have to sign it into law. Soon enough, the whole world will be watching to see what happens.

Click here to read California State Senate Bill 1298.

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