Google France Visited by Investigators

Captured wi-fi data sets of world-wide privacy scandal

By Jackson West
|  Friday, Jun 18, 2010  |  Updated 4:00 PM PDT
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The collection of data flowing over unencrypted wireless Internet signals collected by cars collecting photos for Google Maps' Street View feature has set off investigations around the world.

And the first country to get a look at just what data Google now has on its hands is France, with the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (National Commission for Information and Liberty) sending investigators to Google's offices in France.

Google has admitted the problem was a mistake, and entirely unintentional, but could still face civil or criminal penalties in a number of countries.

The company has said that it has deleted the information captured in Ireland, and intends to do so everywhere else in accordance with local laws. Spain and Germany are also looking into the issue, as is Australia, Canada, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Here in the United States, the privacy breach is just one of many issues that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating at the company.

Google has said that a piece of code to collect the data was mistakenly left in the software powering its Street View vehicles, which don't just take photos but also scan for Wi-Fi access points.

As part of the latter scan, information being sent and received over signals left unencrypted was saved -- information that would include any Internet activity a private individual was conducting at the time.

Google is considering canceling Street View service in the European Union because EU authorities have demanded the company only store the photographs for 6 months instead of 12.

Jackson West gets a little sick to his stomach when he considers how much of his life is stored on Google servers.

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