Googs admits it snooped more data than first claimed


Google finally admitted in a blog post on Friday afternoon — always the preferred time for governments and companies to release bad or embarrassing news — that it's roving "Street View" vehicles (which are gradually photographing the world for the company's Maps service) also grabbed e-mails, website addresses, and even passwords from wireless network in homes and businesses they passed in the process.


The disclosure comes a few days after the Canadian government's privacy office accused Google of violating the rights of thousands of its citizens, according to an Oct. 22 article on Reuters news service. Similar offices in France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and other countries — as well as a coalition of more than 30 state attorneys general in the U.S. — opened investigations into the matter when it was first revealed several months ago.


"If in fact laws were broken ... then there's some serious question of culpability, and Google may need to face significant fines," Reuters quoted Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Washington, DC-based non-profit watchdog Electronic Privacy Information Center, as saying. It also quoted Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is leading the multi-state investigation, as saying that Google's admission "validates and heightens our ... concerns."


Google's Street View cars collected the data in more than 30 countries from 2006 to mid-2010. It used geographic data from the wireless networks to associate the street photos with their locations. The company initially claimed to have grabbed only "fragments" of other data from the networks, which didn't reveal any sensitive personal or security-related information. In its blog post, Google conceded this wasn't true. "We're acutely aware that we failed badly here," it said.