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Congress

More Fallout For Google From Wi-Fi Controversy

October 21, 2010

Google is still feeling the fallout from its revelation in May that its Street View cars mistakenly collected information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks all over the world.

The Internet firm said Thursday that nearly a quarter of a million Germans have asked to opt-out of having their homes revealed on Google's Street View service, which provides street-level photos of addresses as part of Google Maps. Google has agreed to blur the photographs of the homes of those German citizens who sign up to opt-out of the service.

Google acknowledged in May that its Street View cars had mistakenly collected personal information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks as they photographed addresses. Google agreed to provide an online opt-out tool after Germany's data protection authority raised concerns about the Wi-Fi incident.

Google is preparing to launch Street view in 20 German cities and so far 244,237 of the 8.4 million homes that would be included in the service have opted out, Andreas Turk, Google's product manager for Street View in Germany, wrote in a blog post.

"We worked closely with the Data Protection Authorities to ensure all the right German privacy standards were met," Turk said.

Turk added, however, that given the complexity of the project, "there will be some houses that people asked us to blur that will be visible when we launch the imagery in a few weeks time. We've worked very hard to keep the numbers as low as possible but in any system like this there will be mistakes." Turk noted that some Germans who asked to opt out may not have provided the precise location.

Meanwhile, Google has come under scrutiny in other countries as well for the Wi-Fi incident. Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said Tuesday that Google had violated Canadian privacy laws when its cars mistakenly collected personal data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in Canada and has given the firm until February to comply with recommendations outlined by her office.

And Spain's data protection authority announced Monday that it is suing Google for violating that country's privacy laws when its Street View cars collected data from unsecured Spanish Wi-Fi networks, Agence France-Presse reported. The company could face fines of up to $840,000 for each of the five offenses it is facing in Spain.

Several U.S. attorneys general also have launched investigations into the incidents of Google's Wi-Fi snooping in the United States.

Google has repeatedly said the Wi-Fi collection incidents were a mistake and has pledged to work with authorities investigating the matter.

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