Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Google Target of Several Global Investigations

Google Target of Several Global Investigations

Add the city state of Hamburg, Germany to the list of places who are investigating or filing a lawsuit against Google. Prosecutors are investigating the company's collecting of private internet data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks and are trying to get them to turn over at least one of the hard drives used to gather that data.

According to the New York Times, the investigation began earlier this week, when a law student in Germany, Jens Ferner, filed a complaint, stating he wanted to clarify "German law regarding the collection of data from unsecured wireless networks."

In an interview with the New York Times, Wilhelm Mollers, a spokesperson for the Hamburg prosecutor's office said, "We are absolutely at an early stage. This isn’t something that will be wrapped up in two or three weeks. We have to analyze whether there is reason to file criminal charges.”

Google has declined to turn over a hard drive, despite the fact that officials have set a deadline for May 26. The data was used to compile the Street View mapping archive. They did, however, state that they had collected 600 GB of data from unsecured networks around the world while putting the Street View archive together, due to a programming error. They have offered to get rid of the data, which contains websites and "snippets" of personal e-mails. they also said they will work with officials to answer any relevant questions.

If convicted, the sentence for illegal data-gathering is a fine cor two-year prison sentence, but Mollers said it's too soon in the investigation to say what exactly will happen.

Germany has stricter privacy laws than many countries in Europe and continues to oppose the 360-degree Street View photo archive, along with Switzerland. However, France and Great Britain have allowed Street View in their countries.

As for the United States, two members of Congress, Republican Joe Barton of Texas, and Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts have urged the FTC to investigate whether or not Google broke any American laws with the supposed accidental use of the data. In a letter to the FTC, the two Congressmen asked how the data was collected, stored, and if it had violated any privacy rights. They also wanted to know who had access to the information and whether or not it was deceptive or illegal. According to the New York Times, the FTC has not yet responded to the request.

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