Connecticut AG demands Wi-Spy data

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is leading a multi-state probe into Google’s Wi-Spying activity is demanding the Internet giant turn over the data that its Street View cars improperly gathered from wireless networks in the state.

Blumenthal didn’t just make a request.  He has issued a civil investigative demand, which is equivalent to a subpoena. In a statement announcing his action, Blumenthal noted that Google allowed Canadian and other regulatory authorities to view similar data, but has refused to provide his office with the same access. The CID gives Google until Dec. 17 to grant access to the data.

Perhaps Google is reluctant to cooperate because Blumenthal is giving every sign of planning more than a slap on the wrist.  In announcing the move he said:

“We need to verify what confidential information the company surreptitiously and wrongfully collected and stored. We are compelling the company to grant my office access to data to determine whether emails, 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 emails.

“Verifying Google’s data snare is crucial to assessing a penalty and assuring no repeat. Consumers and businesses expect and deserve a full explanation, as well as measures shielding them from future spying. We will scrupulously safeguard the confidentiality of information we review.

“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.”

Google trotted out the same tired response and told ZDNEt:

“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.”

The best way forward is to give the attorney general the access he seeks.

While the Federal Trade Commission has closed its probe of Wi-Spy because the agency concluded Google didn’t violate regulations it is responsible for enforcing, the Federal Communications Commission continues to investigate whether wiretap laws were violated.

Congress needs to hold a hearing on Wi-Spy and require Chief Executive Eric Schmidt to testify about the debacle under oath.  Blumenthal was just elected Senator from Connecticut. Maybe he’ll push for hearings when he takes office in January.

Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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