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38 states grill Google on three-year Wi-Fi slurp

More questions than answers, official says

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A coalition of 38 US states has called on Google to explain in detail how Wi-Fi-sniffing software that surreptitiously collected data over wireless networks was included in its fleet of Street View cars.

“We are asking Google to identify specific individuals responsible for the snooping code and how Google was unaware that this code allowed the Street View cars to collect data broadcast over WiFI networks,” Richard Blumenthal, attorney general of Connecticut, said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Information we are awaiting includes how the spy software was included in Google's Street View network and specific locations where unauthorized data collection occurred.”

Blumenthal said 38 states and the District of Columbia have formally joined the probe into the Street View sniffing debacle, which collected snippets of traffic traveling over open Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries over a three-year period. In addition to Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Texas are on the coalition's executive committee. The investigation aims to determine whether any laws were broken and whether legislation is needed to prevent similar episodes in the future.

For years, Google said network SSIDs and device MAC addresses were the only Wi-Fi data recorded under its Street View program. Then, in mid May, Google disclosed the Google disclosed that cars collected payloads from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks that were within range of its Street View cars and said the software that was responsible was included by accident. The company reiterated those claims on Wednesday.

“As we’ve said before, it was a mistake for us to include code in our software that collected payload data, but we believe we did nothing illegal,” a Google spokeswoman wrote in an email. “We’re continuing to work with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns.”

In his statement, Blumenthal added: “Google's responses continue to generate more questions than they answer.”

At least seven civil lawsuits have been filed against Google over the Street View snooping, 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. Blumenthal said he is actively recruiting additional states to join the coalition. ®

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