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Google claims Wi-Fi slurp legal in the US

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Google lawyers reckon its Wi-Fi data harvesting operation will be judged legit in the US.

That's the latest message on the controversy from the firm - but it remains schtum on the legal brickbats being chucked its way in Europe.

In a letter to Congressmen, Google's director of public policy Pablo Chavez said that harvesting data from unencrypted wireless networks was legal in the US.

"We believe it does not violate US law to collect payload data from networks that are configured to be openly accessible (i.e., not secured by encryption and thus accessible by any user's device)," he wrote.

He did however maintain the company line that the practice was a "mistake" on Google's part.

"We emphasize that being lawful and being the right thing to do are two different things, and that collecting payload data was a mistake for which we are profoundly sorry," Chavez wrote.

Yesterday the top law enforcement official in Connecticut claimed as many as 30 states may launch a joint investigation into how Google's Street View fleet intercepted and stored communications over Wi-Fi.

The French data protection has already found that passwords and emails were harvested. Several of its European counterparts have expressed anger and warned of court action.

Google has blamed the operation on a rogue software coder and said he is subject to internal disciplinary procedures.

The Information Commissioner accepted Google's assurances that data collected in the UK would be destroyed. ®

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