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Google Street View whacked by German prosecutors, Czech data watchdog

Wi-Fi slurping spycars scrutinised in Europe

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Google came under increased fire in Europe yesterday, after German prosecutors and the Czech data protection agency launched separate investigations into the company’s interception of private Wi-Fi data.

Last week Google contradicted previous assurances it had made about its world-roving Street View cars by admitting the ad broker has been collecting information sent over open Wi-Fi networks.

In effect, Mountain View may have hoovered up emails and other private information if the Google cars travelled over Wi-Fi networks while one of its vehicles was in range. The firm had previously claimed that no payload data was ever intercepted.

Hamburg prosecutors said they had received a complaint against unnamed Google workers over the “unauthorised interception of data”, and confirmed that an investigation - that could take about a fortnight to determine if the allegations warrant a full-blown probe - was underway.

"We have launched a probe to see if there is a reasonable suspicion," the prosecutor’s spokesman Wilhelm Möllers told the Financial Times.

The complaint against Google in Hamburg was brought by German lawyer Jens Ferner.

"I want to ensure that the legal implications of 'Google and Wi-Fi' will be probed immediately," said Ferner in a blog post, according to the FT. "In the world of smartphones and iPhones, freely accessible data is much easier to intercept than ever."

Google's boss Eric Schmidt was in London at a company conference yesterday where he told reporters that Google had the most "privacy-centric" policy, reports Bloomberg.

“As a society we haven’t figured out what we want to do with all this new technology and what’s appropriate,” said Schmidt. “Societies will determine the outcomes differently.”

Elsewhere, European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding also waded into the intensifying row against Google. She told Bloomberg that it was "not acceptable that a company operating in the EU does not respect EU rules".

The Register asked Google to comment on this story, but at time of writing it hadn't gotten back to us with a response. ®

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