Google WiFi Data Collection Could Be Prosecuted In Numerous Countries

As many as 30 countries world wide are considering prosecution of Google for its collection of data from unsecured hotspots while gathering information for its Street View project, according to the Age. The United States, many countries in Europe and Asia Pacific are among those now looking at Google's actions.

Google sent letters to three members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee stating they did not think they had done anything illegal.

"We believe it does not violate U.S. law to collect payload data from networks that are configured to be openly accessible (i.e., not secured by encryption and thus accessible by any user's device)," wrote Pablo Chavez, director of public policy, in the letter. "We emphasize that being lawful and being the right thing to do are two different things, and that collecting payload data was a mistake for which we are profoundly sorry," Cnet reported.

Privacy complaints have dogged Google over the past couple of years in many countries, but this problem appears to show Google's data collection methods to be very questionable when the company starts a defense by saying they did not look at the data they collected.

Google also had an audit done and claims the code that captured the information was rogue and unintentional, but Privacy International - an independent security firm - says the audit shows there was criminal intent.

"The independent audit of the Google system shows that the system used for the wi-fi collection intentionally separated out unencrypted content (payload data) of communications and systematically wrote this data to hard drives. This is equivalent to placing a hard tap and a digital recorder onto a phone wire without consent or authorisation," said PI in a statement, the BBC reported.

The letter Google sent to the House Energy and Commerce Committee can be seen here.

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.