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Prosecutors probe Google for data breach

AFP/DDP/DPA/The Local · 19 May 2010, 15:41

Published: 19 May 2010 15:41 GMT+02:00

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“It regards suspicions over the interception of data,” prosecution spokesperson Wilhelm Möllers told news agency DDP, adding that investigators are trying to determine whether initial concerns that the company violated paragraph 202b of the criminal code are “resilient.”

The law forbids the unauthorised collection of private data through technical means.

“It remains totally open as to whether or not we will engage in deeper investigation,” he said.

Google had previously said that it was only collecting WiFi network names and addresses with its Street View cars, which cruise cities around the world taking photographs for the Google Maps service. But on Friday Google senior vice president for engineering and research Alan Eustace said in a blog post that the company had “mistakenly” collected a small amount of data fragments from open networks.

The mistake came to light following an audit from the Data Protection Authority in Hamburg, he said, adding it had been caused by a coding error.

Following criticism from data protection advocates, the company grounded its Street View cars and said it planned to delete the information, but has not signalled it is willing to let authorities look at exactly what was collected.

Operations for the Street View navigation program – which gives users photographic view of roads – has already come under heavy criticism in Germany, where privacy laws are fiercely defended.

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When news of the WiFi cock-up was revealed, the country’s Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner accused Google of criminal behaviour and called for a transparent investigation.

The California-based company has used Street View cars in more than 30 nations.

AFP/DDP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

01:16 May 20, 2010 by Owned_VW_Forever
Perhaps if citizens weren't doing what they shouldn't be doing, they'd have less to worry about. I cherish the ability to go to different countries and view the local sites. It helps me plan holidays, preview race courses for bike racing, and pretend just for a few minutes I'm living elsewhere. I also use it here locally to plan business trips by getting a better idea of traffic flow, turn options, etc.
01:43 May 20, 2010 by Prufrock2010
The Hamburg prosecutors ought to be focused on catching the murderers of the kid who was killed in the S-Bahn station rather than going after Google, which is one of the few corporate giants that actually performs a valuable public service with its products.
12:50 May 20, 2010 by michael4096
I wonder if there is a company in germany that hasn't inadvertantly broken this particular law. I do know that there are many that have been caught and *not* responded by fixing the glitch and deleting the data as quickly as google has.
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