States to probe Google Wi-Fi breach

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced Monday he will head a multi-state
investigation of a Google privacy breach, charging that the company’s response
to authorities has been insufficient so far.

Google’s response “raises as many questions as it answers,”
he said in a statement, calling on the company to “provide a complete and
comprehensive explanation” for an act that “invaded home and business
computer networks and vacuumed up personal information and communications.” 

There is no word yet on which or how many states are involved, but
Blumenthal indicated the number will be “significant.” Attorneys general from
30 states participated in a conference call on the topic this month.

Google has admitted it collected user information running
over unlocked wireless networks and has apologized. It maintains
the actions fell within legal bounds.

Blumenthal is not so sure. “Our investigation will consider
whether laws may have been broken and whether changes to state and federal
statutes may be necessary,” he said.  

Google says the breach occurred while it was systematically
collecting Wi-Fi network information and, due to a software error, wound up
collecting data running over those networks, which could include private
banking information, e-mails and passwords.

Blumenthal asked how “purportedly unauthorized code become
part” of Google’s system in the first place. He said he wants to know who put
it there and whether there have been other instances where unauthorized code
has captured consumer data. He also asked for information about which cities
and towns have been affected in his state.

The data collection point was Google’s Street View vans,
which take photographs for its mapping application.

“Street View cannot mean ‘complete view,’” Blumenthal
said. “Google must come clean, explaining how and why it intercepted and saved
private information broadcast over personal and business wireless networks.”

A Google spokesperson offered this comment in response to the new probe: “It was a mistake for us to include code in our software that collected payload data, but we don’t believe we broke any U.S. laws. We’re working with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns.”

Tags Richard Blumenthal

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