Google faces multi-state U.S. probe over Wi-Fi snooping

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Last month Google revealed that its Street View cars had "inadvertently" collected data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in several countries, for at least three years, as they logged hotspot locations and took pictures for the online mapping service. The company explained the data was gathered because of some rogue code developed by a "single engineer," but it never went into details about how the code came to be included in the Street View system.

Google argued that the data that was collected was fragmented because Street View cars were moving and the equipment used to record data was changing wireless channels several times a second. However, a French investigation recently concluded that the compromised data included emails, fragments of visited web pages and even passwords. Investigations are also ongoing in Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and now as many as 30 U.S. states.

The U.S. investigation, led by Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal, will focus on determining whether Google broke any laws, how the unauthorized data collection happened, why the information was kept if Google was supposedly unaware of it and what action will prevent a recurrence. The outcome of the investigation could have important implications for Internet privacy laws, especially in regard to protecting personal information that isn't secured.

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