Germany launches criminal investigation of Google

The investigation centers on Google's collection of data on Wi-Fi networks while shooting Street View imagery

German prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation over whether Google broke data protection regulations when it collected fragments of Wi-Fi data while shooting imagery for its mapping application.

The probe, conducted by the Hamburg Prosecutor's Office, follows Google's admission that it mistakenly collected the content of communications from non-password protected Wi-Fi networks using its Street View vehicles, which photograph streets for the Google Maps service.

The Hamburg prosecutor's office is at an early stage in the case, spokesman Wilhelm Möllers said Thursday.

Möllers said his office will investigate how Google was collecting the data, but that it may be at least two weeks before a decision is made whether to file charges.

Google said it collected Wi-Fi network data, such as SSID (Service Set Identifier) information and MAC (Media Access Control) addresses. The company said it only collected fragments of personal Web traffic as its Wi-Fi equipment automatically changed channels five times a second. Wi-Fi networks can carry several megabytes of data per second.

The criminal probe marks an additional problem for Google in Germany, which has been under ongoing scrutiny from Hamburg's Data Protection Agency.

The Data Protection Agency has the power to assess penalties against Google, and has asked the company to turn over by next Wednesday a hard drive from one the vehicles collecting the data, according to an official from the agency.

"We have several problems with Street View and more problems with WLAN" scanning, she said.

Although Google has collected Street View data for Germany, the service has not been launched there. Google has not yet fully responded to a set of 13 points compiled by the Data Protection Agency that it says are necessary to comply with German laws, she said.

One of those points is agreeing to delete images of peoples' homes from Street View before those images go live, she said. In other locales, Google will remove an image on request, but only after publication.

Germany's privacy laws generally restrict photographs of people and property without a person's consent, except in very public situations, such as a sporting event.

The Data Protection Agency also requested that Google more thoroughly blur peoples' faces and that those partially censored images be permanently deleted from its databases.

Italy's data protection authority and the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) are also reviewing Google's Wi-Fi scanning. The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office said Google appeared to have breached data protection requirements, but that it would not pursue the company after Google agreed to delete the data.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags google street viewgermanyprivacy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?