Google’s (GOOG) Street View data collection practices have gotten it into legal hot water throughout the world and on Tuesday the company agreed to pay $7 million to settle charges leveled by 38 state attorneys general that it improperly collected personal data from unsecured wireless networks from around the United States. Google maintains that it was unaware that some of its Street View employees were collecting the data, which it admits included “URLs of requested Web pages, partial or complete email communications, and any confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network user while the Street View cars were driving down streets.” As part of the settlement, Google will also have to run a training program for at least the next decade instructing employees on how to respect users’ privacy while collecting data from Street View and other services. A press release on the settlement issued by the Massachusetts State Attorney General’s office is posted below. More →
Have you ever wondered what Google’s (GOOG) data centers look like? Short answer: incredibly clean and organized. Google announced on its official blog that users can now take a virtual tour of its Lenoir, North Carolina data center using its Street View technology. Geeky readers can explore the center’s interior and exterior by visiting this link. Google’s official blog post says users can, “Walk in the front door, head up the stairs, turn right at the ping-pong table and head down the hall to the data center floor. Or take a stroll around the exterior of the facility to see our energy-efficient cooling infrastructure.” A video introducing Street View for Google’s Lenoir data center follows below.
If the New York Times’ report from Tuesday is accurate, a native Google (GOOG) Maps app for iOS might not be released until the end of the year. For the time being, it would appear iOS 6 users can either switch to Android, deal with the issues until Apple fixes them or visit Google’s mobile Maps website for their mapping needs. The Web-based solution is not ideal and it’s much slower than a dedicated app, but using Google’s Maps website in Safari or any Web browser is still more accurate than Apple’s hot new mess. It just doesn’t have Street View, Google’s huge database of stitched panoramas taken from camera-outfitted cars. According to a New York Times published on Thursday, however, Google will update its mobile Maps website with Street View within two weeks, bringing iOS users an even more robust alternative to the widely criticized Apple Maps app. More →
The French sound just as unhappy about Google’s (GOOG) dodgy Street View data collection practices as everyone else, as Bloomberg reports that France’s data-protection authority is asking Google to fork over all the data it had scooped up from random Wi-Fi users that it hasn’t yet deleted. The current kerfuffle over data collection started last week when Google admitted to British officials that it had neglected to delete thousands of emails and passwords that its employees had collected from Wi-Fi hotspots while driving through various neighborhoods in Google Street View cars, despite being ordered to do so back in 2010. Google has apologized for its error and says that it “would now like to delete the remaining data,” Bloomberg reports. More →
The controversy surrounding Google’s (GOOG) data collection practices took an unexpected turn Friday when the company admitted to British officials that it had neglected to delete thousands of emails and passwords that employees had collected from Wi-Fi hotspots while driving through various neighborhoods in Google Street View cars. As the Guardian notes, Google was ordered to delete all collected personal data back in December 2010 and failing to comply could allow the British Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to fine the company as much as £500,000 (approximately $786,000). Google is claiming that “human error” was responsible for its failed compliance and said that it was working to correct the situation. More →
Anyone familiar with the Swiss knows that they’re a private sort of folk who don’t care much for the meddling of outsiders. This is a country, after all, that didn’t join the United Nations until 2002 for fear of losing its traditionally neutral stance in foreign entanglements. So you can imagine that Switzerland, which the New York Times says has “some of the strictest privacy safeguards in the world,” didn’t care much for Google snooping around its streets with its camera trucks taking pictures of everything in sight for its Google Street View Project. But the Swiss Federal Supreme Court Friday ruled that Google does indeed have the right to film and post pictures of Switzerland’s public spaces even if it can’t guarantee with 100% certainty that all the people it records will have their faces blurred out to protect their identities. However, the court also ruled that Google would have to lower its cameras to decrease the chance of peering over peoples’ fences and into their private residences. What’s more, Google will have to make sure to blur out schools, women’s shelters, prisons and other locations that the state deems to be sensitive. More →
The Federal Communications Commission has fined Google $25,000 for impeding a U.S. investigation into the data collection scandal surrounding its Street View project, in which the Internet giant allegedly accessed unsecured networks and collected personal information without users’ permission. The FCC said the Mountain View-based company did not cooperate with the investigation and refused to reveal the names of its engineers associated with the project. “Google refused to identify any employees or produce any e-mails. The company could not supply compliant declarations without identifying employees it preferred not to identify,” the FCC said. “Misconduct of this nature threatens to compromise the commission’s ability to effectively investigate possible violations of the Communications Act and the commission’s rules.” More →
Most online April Fool’s jokes are, to put it as kindly as possible, awful. Of all the companies that try to put creative “pranks” together, however, Google is among the best at managing April Fool’s stunts that are geeky enough to be laughed at in a good way rather than an uncomfortable, “I can’t believe someone thought this would be clever” way. This year, Google cooked up a creative new feature for Google Maps that lets users tour America with 8-bit graphics that will make any NES fan shed a nostalgic tear. As an added bonus, the Zelda-like U.S. landscape in this new version of Maps transforms into an 8-bit Street View when the user zooms in all the way. A link to Google’s 8-bit America follows below along with a screenshot of Street View. More →
A Florida firm has filed a claim alleging that Google and Apple are both infringing on its mapping technology, PaidContent reported on Monday. PanoMap Technologies filed the complaint in an Orlando federal court, stating the use of Google Maps “Street View” feature in the iPad and iPhone violates U.S. Patent No. 6,563,529. The patent covers an “interactive system for displaying detailed view and direction in panoramic images.” The company wants Apple and Google to pay triple damages, asserting that the two tech giants knew about the patent but had ignored it. To support its allegations, PanoMap claims that Apple visited a website that showcased the patent in 2007 and Google cited the patent in its own recent patent application. The Google Maps Street View function allows users to zoom in and see an interactive photograph of houses, street corners and more. The patent was issued in 2003 and transferred to a shell company called Empire IP last year. In early February it was again transferred to PanoMap Technologies. The patent describes a technique to adjust a camera position from place to place and include it in a map image. More →
Following Google’s recent admission that it accidentally stole passwords, emails and other personal information with its Street View cars, the Federal Trade Commission has decided not to issue any fines. Earlier this week, Google confirmed accusations that its Street View cars — the vehicles Google uses to take Street View images for its popular Google Maps service — inadvertently stole sensitive personal data from various homes with open Wi-Fi networks. Wednesday, the FTC confirmed that a resulting investigation did not find cause to fine Google for its unlawful actions. FTC director for consumer protection David C. Vladeck said the following in a letter to Google:
Google has made assurances to the FTC that the company has not used and will not use any of the payload data collected in any Google product or service, now or in the future. This assurance is critical to mitigate the potential harm to consumers from the collection of payload data. Because of these commitments, we are ending our inquiry into this matter at this time.
[Via CNN] More →
Reuters is reporting that search giant Google had an office in Seoul, South Korea raided by police earlier today. The Korean National Police Agency said they “have been investigating Google Korea LLC on suspicion of unauthorized collection and storage of data on unspecified Internet users from Wi-Fi networks.” Google has been collecting data in South Korea since late last year in preparation for the launch of the Street View service. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, as well as other European governments, are also looking into allegations that Google illegally collected and stored information from Wi-Fi networks while conducting its Street View surveys. Google has yet to comment on the South Korean raid. More →
Last week, the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty announced that Wi-Fi data sniffed and collected by Google Inc.’s Street View cyborg car contained “fragments” of personal information. This week, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, “will seek additional information from Google and determine whether laws may have been broken.” The paper goes onto write, “As many as 30 U.S. states could join forces to look into how Google Inc.’s Street View vehicles came to collect Internet user’s personal data from unsecured wireless networks.” Blumenthal, who is a candidate to replace the retiring Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), did not say whether charges would be filed, but rather explained that he wanted a “comprehensive explanation of how this unauthorized data collection happened, why the information was kept if collection was inadvertent, and what action will prevent a recurrence.” More →
Google confirmed last month that while snapping photos of the local flavor, the search giant was also inadvertently capturing packets of data from unsecured routers. Google downplayed the severity of this guffaw by reassuring people that only small, presumably useless, fragments of personal data were collected. Despite Google’s re-assurance, this admission caused a stir amongst privacy groups and prompted several agencies to take a closer look at the data that Google collected. The French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) was one such group and the first to officially get its hand on the stored data. CNIL announced the results of its investigation on Friday and revealed that the captured fragments included email passwords and extracted portions of email messages. Bad news for Google as this revelation is the perfect ammunition for groups already upset with Google and its management of a vast treasure trove of personal data. More →