Google Denies Connecticut AG Street View Data

Sat, Dec 18, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Google Dec. 17 refused to give personal data accidentally collected from Connecticut citizens to the state attorney general, a move that could precipitate legal action.

    Attorney General Richard Blumenthal Dec. 10 issued the search engine a civil investigative demand to retrieve data Google’s Street View cars accidentally collected over unsecured WiFi networks.

    Blumenthal’s demand, for which he applied a Friday deadline, was tantamount to a subpoena. In a new statement, he threatened Google with legal action for failing to comply.

    “I am disappointed by Google’s failure to comply with my information demands,” Blumenthal said. “We will review any information we receive and consider whether additional enforcement steps — including possible legal action — are warranted.”

    Google revealed in May its Street View cars, which rove streets all over the world to grab imagery for Google Maps, had grabbed 600GB of WiFi data from more than 30 countries around the world since 2007.

    While Google initially thought this data was simply fragments of content, it later learned it included private citizens’ whole e-mails, passwords and Web browsing information.

    Google has turned over this data in Germany, France, Spain and Canada, and destroyed it in Ireland. But it has not done either in Connecticut, according to Blumenthal.

    “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,” Blumenthal said in his statement Dec. 10.

    Google declined to tell eWEEK why it refused Blumenthal’s request for the information. A Google spokesperson stuck to the company refrain in this matter.

    “As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks. As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting all WiFi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities.

    “We did not want and have never used the payload data in any of our products and services. We want to delete the 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.”

    That answer isn’t satisfactory for privacy pundits such as Consumer Watchdog’s John M. Simpson.

    “Google’s refusal to give data gathered by its Street View cars from private WiFi networks to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal underscores the need for a Congressional hearing,” Simpson said. “What is Google hiding?

    Blumenthal, who was elected to the Senate and begins his duties there next month, targeted Google six weeks after the Federal Trade Commission closed its investigation into the so-called WiSpy incident.

    However, the Federal Communications Commission said Nov. 10 it was probing whether Google broke the law in the incident.

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