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Top cops worldwide grill Google over Wi-Fi snoop

'Possibly illegal'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Monday became the latest law enforcement official to order Google to give a detailed accounting of the information its Street View cars surreptitiously sniffed from unsecured Wi-Fi networks over a three-year period.

In a letter to Google officials, Blumenthal demanded they provide additional details about the data collection, including what type of information was intercepted, the duration and location of the snooping operation, and where the data is stored now. He joins officials in Missouri, France, Germany, Spain, Canada and Australia in ordering the search giant to be more forthcoming about the privacy violation. Google has said it was the result of beta software that was accidentally installed in Street View cars as they snapped pictures in more than 30 countries from 2007 until earlier this year.

“Concealed internet capture by Google's high tech cars may violate valid expectations of privacy – making it possibly illegal,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “If personal data was collected, Google must disclose how widely it was captured, how it was stored, who had access to it and the purpose.”

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster made similar demands on Friday.

At least seven civil lawsuits have been filed against Google, and agencies in Canada, Australia and throughout Europe have opened investigations. US lawmakers have called on the Federal Trade Commission to conduct its own inquiry.

Google revealed the breach last month in a blog post that omitted key details, including how much data was collected and whether anyone ever looked at it. The company said it segregated the purloined information and was in the process of destroying it. Officials have since agreed to turn over some of the data to officials in Europe.

A Google spokeswoman said company officials are cooperating. "We're working with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns," she wrote in an email.

Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, have indicated they are investigating whether Google has broken any criminal laws.

“It is unclear whether Google's conduct violated federal or state law when it intercepted this data,” Missouri AG Koster wrote in a letter to a Google executive on Friday. “But there can be no doubt that the company's conduct implicates the privacy concerns of Missouri residents.” ®

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