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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacygoogle street viewgermany

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

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

Logitech Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

Shop safely with our award-winning security solution. Protect yourself this Black Friday and get the exclusive Black Friday discount for Bitdefender 2019!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?