Google Defends Itself In Wi-Fi Privacy Breach

Google has written to three U.S. congressmen stating that its accidental sniffing of private data from Wi-Fi networks across the globe didn’t breach any U.S. law. The letter was released by the congressmen, who are demanding a Federal Trade Commission inquiry into the incident, on Friday. The letter reiterated Google’s contention that the act was unintentional and committed accidentally.

The Internet search giant last month admitted that its Street View vans, which gather information for Google Earth and Google Maps, inadvertently collected data from Wi-Fi hotspots in dozens of countries about what users were accessing on Internet. The activity came to light after German authorities questioned about the data these Street View vans were collecting. The operation which spanned over a period of three years created a storm about the company’s conduct in the matters of privacy.

Google maintains that the collection of private data was due to erroneously designed software and it has never used the data collected. The company had since stopped collecting data and the offending software had been sent to an independent firm for review, its Director of Public Policy, Pablo Chavez said in the letter. It is yet to be determined how many Wi-Fi hot spots or how many of their users were affected in the incident, he wrote, while updating that data collected in Ireland, Denmark and Austria has been deleted at their request.

Australia, Italy, Germany, New Zealand and Spain have ordered probe into the incident. The collected data, amounting to several hundred gigabytes, is currently under custody of a federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon.

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Mark Whysall

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