New Investigation Puts Google Under Microscope

Google faced a sticky situation last month in Germany, going back and forth with government officials on data-collection allegations, and now faces more questions stateside.

Richard Blumenthal, attorney general for Connecticut, said Monday that he's leading an investigation into Google’s Wi-Fi data collection practices connected to its Street View project. Additionally, some 30 states expressed interest in participating in the investigation.

Google claims it accidentally obtained random personal data while collecting data for Street View via unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. Blumenthal is trying to find out when and why Google extracted the personal data; who inserted the code into Google programming; and if there have been repeat examples of this case, among other tasks.

But what's important to remember is that responsibility for privacy rests not just with companies, but also with individuals, according to David Sockol, CEO of Emagined Security, a San Carlos, Calif.-based solution provider.

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’Citizens of all countries should ensure they have adequately protected themselves, but in many cases this does not happen,’ he said. ’Without protection, networks can be connected without explicit authorization."

The U.S. investigation will also take a closer look into Google’s working practices, according to the BBC.

Said Blumenthal: "Street View cannot mean Complete View -- invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications. Consumers have a right and a need to know what personal information -- which could include e-mails, Web browsing and passwords -- Google may have collected and why. Google must come clean.

’Drive-by data sweeps of unsecured Wi-Fi networks here would be deeply disturbing, a potentially impermissible, pernicious invasion of privacy," Blumenthal said.

In addition to the domestic investigation, Google is also facing investigations in Germany, Italy, Australia and Canada.

Sockol said he believes Google is working hard to protect itself from exposing information that could lead to prosecution.

’I can understand that Google may be cautious to turn over data to the government that they collected, especially since it may contain additional information such as personal or confidential data,’ Sockol said. ’If I were in Google’s shoes, I would be working hard to get agreement from the government that destruction of the data is sufficient.’