Google Reverses Its Position on Wi-Fi Data

Lora Bentley

Though it previously offered to destroy the data its Street View camera cars "inadvertently" collected from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in 33 countries and Hong Kong, Google has reportedly agreed to turn the data over to the appropriate authorities in Europe and in the United States.


InformationWeek reports Google's change of mind - at least with regard to the U.S. data - was forced by a court order. Thomas Claburn writes:

Faced with an order from a U.S. District Court judge in Oregon to hand over WiFi data gathered in the U.S. -- a consequence of one of many civil lawsuits filed against the company in recent weeks for alleged privacy law violations -- Google had no choice...

The decision also comes as the plaintiffs in one of those civil lawsuits amend their complaint to allege that Google collected the Wi-Fi data in an effort to bolster its application for a patent on technology that can gather and use data sent over wireless networks. From the complaint:

Google has employed one or more of the methods disclosed in the '776 Application to collect, decode, analyze, store, and make beneficial use of wireless data (including payload data) it collected from plaintiffs.

While regulators in Austria, Ireland and Denmark asked Google to destroy data collected in their respective countries,officials in Canada announced this week they have opened a formal investigation into the matter. Germany, France, Spain and Italy and others are also investigating.

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