Multi-State Probe Into Google WiFi Incident Announced

Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that he is leading a multi-state investigation examining Google’s unauthorized collection of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

    Blumenthal, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, said 37 states are participating in the investigation.

    Google revealed in May that it had “mistakenly” collected personal information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks while collecting images for its Street View service, which provides street-level pictures of addresses. Google said the problem was a mistake and does not believe it has broken any laws. It has pledged to cooperate with authorities investigating the matter.

    Blumenthal said the states would take appropriate steps including legal action to obtain “complete, comprehensive answers.”

    “Google’s responses continue to generate more questions than they answer,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Our powerful multi-state coalition … is demanding that Google reveal whether it tested Street View software, which would have revealed that it was collected payload data.”

    Blumenthal sent a letter to Google Senior Counsel Stacey Wexler Wednesday requesting additional information as part of the multistate investigation by Friday.

    He requested information such as whether Google tested the software used by Street View vehicles to collect the Wi-Fi data to determine if any consumer data would be collected; all the states where Wi-Fi data was collected by Street View cars; who inserted the unauthorized code into the Street View software; and was any data collected by the Wi-Fi incident disclosed to third parties or used for marketing.

    Consumer Watchdog, a group that has been critical of Google on multiple fronts, praised the state effort but again urged Congress to hold a hearing on the issue.

    “Just as the CEO of BP was asked to explain the Gulf oil spill to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, so should Google CEO Eric Schmidt be required to testify about the gross intrusion into consumers’ privacy,” John Simpson, the group’s consumer advocate, said in a statement.

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