Klobuchar joins chorus of critics in Google Street View privacy flap

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Thursday signaled Google's recent apology fails to address lingering questions surrounding how and why its Street View team accidentally collected an untold amount of personal e-mails and documents.

The search giant revealed last week that its infamous cars assembling photos for Google Maps' street-level feature collected not only the location of Wi-Fi networks, as planned, but also e-mail and documents transmitted over some of those connections.

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That admission immediately generated worldwide backlash, as authorities in Germany launched an investigation, U.S. citizens pushed for a class-action lawsuit and members of Congress all but asked federal regulators to open their own inquiry.

Klobuchar joined that growing chorus of Google critics Thursday — in a letter to CEO Eric Schmidt, she pressed the company to answer a score of privacy questions and better detail "how it plans to protect the privacy of individuals whose data has been collected and stored."

"While your company publicly apologized and explained that the data collection was a result of an unintentional coding error, many questions remain," the senator wrote.

Klobuchar then listed a series of questions: "In particular, what specific data did Google collect, how was it stored, and who had access to this information? Did any software engineers or other Google employees notice this excess information in the database in the three years since the program began?  To what degree are privacy and data security considered in the software development process?  And most importantly, what steps are being taken to ensure this type of intrusion does not happen again?"

"As you have long recognized, Google must make privacy and data security issues a top priority," she said. "Even though these were publicly available networks, the American people value their privacy and preserving public trust is paramount."

Klobuchar's letter to Google follows a separate missive from Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) on Wednesday to the Federal Trade Commission.

The two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Barton is the top Republican, asked the FTC to detail whether it had launched its own investigation. They also asked federal regulators to take stock of their ability to respond to Google's flap, or to detail the "legislative language you would recommend to enable the commission to act appropriately."

FTC officials acknowledged this week they received the letter, but offered no comment on its contents.