Last month, Mountain View, CA – based Google, Inc got a lot of attention when it was exposed that their Street View software was collecting unauthorized data from wireless networks. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process by which Google collects images of streets and houses for their Street View program, they have surveillance-equipped vehicles that drive around neighborhoods cataloging geospatial data.
Today Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumethal, on behalf of the Executive Committee for the Multistate Working Group (a 37-state coalition), sent a letter to the Senior Counsel at Google regarding their unauthorized data collection practices that have been revealed as part of their Street View software.
The purpose of the letter was to pose 13 specific questions concerning Google’s practices with regards to Street View. Questions posed include whether or not Google tested the Street View software before it was put into use; which states had network content collected; who wrote the code for the Street View software; and whether or not any of the collected data was ever disclosed to third parties or used for marketing purposes.
In his statement, Attorney General Blumenthal said, “If Google tested this software, it should have known all along that Street View cars would snare and collect confidential data from homes across America. Now the question is how it may have used — and secured — all this private information.”
Google’s practice of collecting unauthorized data, and further claiming that they had no knowledge of the collection or how/why it happened, is disturbing. However, we commend Attorney General Blumenthal and the other 37 states for stepping in and demanding that vital questions regarding consumer’s privacy be answered. Hopefully, by the July 23 deadline established by Blumenthal, American citizens will get a better answer than “it was a mistake.”