Blumenthal presses Google on Street View

"People at the company were quite surprised and honestly embarrassed that we were collecting" payload data, Davidson said.

However, Blumenthal held up a patent application from Google that he said discusses downloading payload data in order to pinpoint the location of wireless routers. He said the patent application suggests that Google did not collect the data by accident.

"Why, then, submit a patent application for the very process [Google] denies using?" Blumenthal asked.

Update: A Google spokesman sent the following comment by email:

"The technology in that patent has nothing to do with the collection and storage of payload data, and it's entirely unrelated to the software code used to collect WiFi information with Street View cars."

Davidson replied that he is not familiar with the application in question, but that Google generally submits scores or even hundreds of patent applications every year for things that are "fairly speculative."

Davidson said it wouldn't be surprising if Google was looking for innovative ways to provide location-based services in that arena, but reiterated that the firm never intended to collect the payload data.

This story was updated at 8:21 p.m.