Google will resume Street View photography in four countries

The company says it has removed the Wi-Fi hardware that got it into hot water with data protection authorities

Google said on Friday it will resume collection of Street View images in four countries following the removal of Wi-Fi data collection equipment that thrust the company into the spotlight of data protection officials worldwide.

Starting next week, Street View vehicles will being roaming Ireland, Norway, South Africa and Sweden again, wrote Brian McClendon, vice president of engineering for Google Geo on the company's European public policy blog. Google has spoken to regulators in those countries.

"The Wi-Fi data collection equipment has been removed from our cars in each country, and the independent security experts Stroz Friedberg have approved a protocol to ensure any Wi-Fi-related software is also removed from the cars before they start driving again," McClendon wrote. "Our cars will no longer collect any Wi-Fi information at all, but will continue to collect photos and 3D imagery as they did before."

"We recognize that serious mistakes were made in the collection of Wi-Fi payload data, and we have worked to quickly rectify them," he wrote.

Google admitted in May that it had collected information such as SSID (Service Set Identifier) and MAC (Media Access Control) addresses from unencrypted Wi-Fi routers, following a request for an audit by German data protection authorities in Hamburg. The admission started a spate of inquiries into the program in other countries including France, Italy, the U.K., the U.S., and Spain.

The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office said Google appeared to have breached data protection requirements but the office declined to take action when Google agreed to delete the data. In Germany, the Hamburg prosecutor's office is continuing its criminal investigation into Street View, but charges have not been filed yet, spokesman Wilhelm Möllers said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Hamburg's Data Protection Authority is continuing to work with Google to fully understand how the Wi-Fi collection system worked, said Hans Joachim-Menzel, vice head of the agency.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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