Google Wi-Fi Data Collection Angers European Officials

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Artwork: Chip Taylor
European officials are still miffed over Google's "accidental" Wi-Fi data collection and seek an in-depth investigation that may lead to harsh penalties for the search engine giant.

It was revealed that Google's Street View cars were collecting more than images and coordinates for its sophisticated GPS site. As much as 600GB of data from Wi-Fi networks -- in more than 30 countries -- has been snagged in Google's fishnet.

On Friday, Google apologized for the snafu in a blog post. Google at first thought it wasn't nabbing "payload data" (personal information sent over a network), but a closer look -- requested by Germany's Data Protection Authority -- revealed they were, in fact, collecting samples off non-password-protected Wi-Fi networks. This may have included lists of sites, passwords and other sensitive information. To band-aid the wounds, Google promised to stop its Street View cars from collecting Wi-Fi network data entirely.

But this was not enough. Criticism ensued, with the most ruthless coming from German officials. "Based on the infor

mation we have before us, it appears that Google has illegally tapped into private networks in violation of German law. This is alarming and further evidence that privacy law is a foreign concept to Google," Ilse Aigner, the German minister for food, agriculture and consumer protection, told the New York Times. Another official stated that the scandal would be investigated by a panel of European national data protection chiefs that advises the European Commission.

This isn't the first time Germany has railed against Google Street View. Last year, German officials demanded that Google delete tons of retained snapshots, citing that people's privacy was being violated under German law. German Street View was never unveiled, but Google is optimistic that it'll be released this year -- but after this? Seems doubtful.

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