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    Update on Google WiFi Data Collection Controversy: States Discuss Joint Inquiry

    Last month, Google announced that, for more than three years — in more than 30 countries — it had been “mistakenly collecting” personal data from open WiFi networks as its vehicles roamed the streets taking photos for its Street View mapping service. The data could include e-mail messages, passwords, or Web site visits. There was an uproar over the privacy implications.

    Last week, the Washington Post reported, “Google said it may have collected personal information from its Street View mapping cars, according to a letter to lawmakers earlier this week. The firm also said it began collecting information from residential Wi-Fi networks three years ago and did not inform consumers directly that it was doing so.”

    Now, the New York Times reports that, in a conference call, “Attorneys general from about 30 states are investigating whether Google violated any laws when vehicles used by the company to snap pictures for the Street View service also collected snippets of personal information sent over unsecured wireless networks.”

    The call was spearheaded by Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general, who was among the first to open an investigation into the data gathering by Google.

    “Violating legitimate expectations of privacy on the part of both homeowners and business people is an extraordinarily serious issue, and we want all the facts as quickly as possible,” Mr. Blumenthal said in an interview by phone. […]

    In the United States, the matter has been subject of Congressional inquiries and class action lawsuits in various states.

    Google declined to comment on individual investigations or lawsuits. But the company repeated earlier statements that its collection of data from Wi-Fi networks was a mistake but not illegal.

    Google is facing inquiries worldwide. Data protection officials from numerous countries began investigating the online services giant’s actions after it admitted gathering the personal WiFi data.

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