Economy

Google Faces Probe By States For WiFi Breaches

Google is facing another probe into what the company claims was the inadvertent snooping of wireless networks by its "Street View" photo-gathering cars.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is also running for Senate, said Monday that his office is spearheading an investigation into exactly what Google was doing when its cars swept up personal information emanating from personal and business wireless networks and what if any laws the Internet Giant broke.

Blumenthal said officials from more than 30 states participated in a conference call about Google's troubling data gathering so he expects a "significant" number of states to ultimately take part in the investigation.

A snippet from Blumenthal's press release:

“My office will lead a multistate investigation — expected to involve a significant number of states — into Google’s deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy,” Blumenthal said. “Street View cannot mean Complete View — invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications. Consumers have a right and a need to know what personal information which could include emails, web browsing and passwordsGoogle may have collected, how and why. Google must come clean, explaining how and why it intercepted and saved private information broadcast over personal and business wireless networks.

“While we hope Google will continue to cooperate, its response so far raises as many questions as it answers. The company must provide a complete and comprehensive explanation of how this unauthorized data collection happened, why the information was kept if collection was inadvertent and what action will prevent a recurrence.

“Our investigation will consider whether laws may have been broken and whether changes to state and federal statutes may be necessary.”

Here are some of the questions Blumenthal said he and his people will want answers for:

Was data collected by Google ever extracted and if so, when and why;

How did purportedly unauthorized code — which captured data broadcast over unencrypted WiFi networks — become part of a Street View computer program;Who inserted what Google calls unauthorized code into the program and why;

Have there been other instances of engineers writing unauthorized code into Google products to capture consumer data, and if so provide all instances and full details;

Why did Google save data it says was accidently collected.

Google's gathering of the data is also under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission as well as European authorities.

Google has maintained that its fleet of Street View vehicles accidentally gathered the data because software code was included in its on-board computers that shouldn't have been. It has said it would cooperate with authorities, including in the deletion of the so-called "payload data" containing personal information transmitted across countless WiFi networks.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.