Canada's privacy czar launches Google investigation

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The Independent Online

Canada's privacy commissioner said Tuesday she was probing Google's inadvertent collection of data from unsecured wireless networks as its cars photographed streetscapes for its mapping service.

"We have a number of questions about how this collection could have happened and about the impact on people's privacy," said Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, adding: "An investigation is the best way to find the answers."

Google, which notified the commissioner it had been collecting and storing information broadcast via wireless networks that were not password protected, may have contravened Canada's privacy laws, she said.

Google was asked to hand over any information collected for the investigation.

The move follows similar probes in Austria, Germany, Italy and the United States after Google admitted its Street View cars, which have been cruising and taking photographs of cities in over 30 countries, had inadvertently gathered fragments of personal data sent over unsecured Wi-Fi systems.

The company said it had planned to use the Wi-Fi network data to add features to its mapping services. It has since stopped collecting any more Wi-Fi network data.

Street View allows users to view panoramic street scenes on Google Maps.