Multistate Posse To Probe Google On Street View

As leader of the investigation, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is playing the role of tough lawman Joe Lefors, and he's being joined by more than 30 other states that are just as keen on finding out what personal information Google may have collected, and whether it did so accidentally, as the company claims.

“Street View cannot mean Complete View -- invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications," Blumenthal said Monday in a statement.

So far, Google's response to the issue has left many questions unanswered, according to Blumenthal. Hence, the formation of the posse, which will seek to ascertain if Google broke any laws and whether changes to state and federal statutes may be necessary.

"Google must come clean, explaining how and why it intercepted and saved private information broadcast over personal and business wireless networks," Blumenthal said in the statement.

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Last month, Google acknowledged that cars taking photos for its Street View service inadvertently gathered personally identifiable data such as e-mails and Web addresses via unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Google said its Street View cars picked up around 600 gigabytes of data in more than 30 countries, and later attributed it to one of its engineers inserting unauthorized code into the Street View software system.

Google launched an internal investigation of the rogue engineer's actions and also hired an independent third party to conduct an audit of its Street View data collection practices. Google plans to make the results of that investigation public when it’s completed, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt has offered a mea culpa for the mistake.

“We screwed up. Let’s be very clear about that,” Schmidt told the Financial Times earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Google is facing investigations by multiple European countries as well as numerous civil lawsuits in the U.S. European data privacy watchdogs had already been pressuring Google to delete Street View photos after six months instead of the year that Google currently retains them.