Google is finding it difficult to live up to its motto: "Don't be evil." Whether the technology giant intends to or not, it continues to find itself on the edge of prickly privacy issues. The latest dustup comes after Google's Street View cars, which carry a globe like camera designed to capture street views, captured sensitive WiFi data.
Google admits that its "Street View" vehicles collected complete e-mails, passwords and private data. It had previously disclosed the capture of some information. But it had not fessed up to obtaining complete messages and sensitive information.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the admission "validates and heightens our significant concerns," and noted that the state's investigation is ongoing. Google is now facing lawsuits in several other states.
This latest admission is igniting further inquiries in countries across the globe. Days ago, a Canadian privacy agency said Google violated the rights of thousands of Canadians. Investigations are also pending in France, Germany and Spain.
The issue came to light because Google, while capturing street view data, was also collecting WiFi hot spot locations. In the process, Google's cars also captured personal data. This despite the fact that Google designed safeguards (like rapidly switching the channels of their system) to prevent capturing personal data. Google has since stopped collecting the WiFi data.
But expect its previous data collection to cause major legal headaches.
The company was collecting this data in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United States, The Associated Foreign Press reports.
"We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices..." said Alan Eustace, Google's senior vice president of engineering and research. Whether that mea culpa will be good enough remains to be seen.