May 3, 2012
Google Street View Inquiries To Be Reopened In Europe
The heat over Google´s Street View service may be turned down in the US, but European privacy regulators are considering reopening inquiries into the company´s wifi sniffing and private data collection. The story that this was the error of a single programmer isn´t sitting well with European officials, reports Kevin J. Obrien of the New York Times.
Jacob Kohnstamm, a Dutch regulator who is the chairman of the top European privacy panel feels Google mislead regulators in the matter and called for a stronger global response. “It is time for data protection authorities around the world to work together to hold the company accountable.”
Google executives, he said, had reassured European lawmakers, often in personal appearances, that the illegal data collection was unintentional and the work of one engineer working secretly.
The collection of 600 gigabytes of e-mails, photos, web histories and passwords from wifi routers worldwide was first uncovered in Germany in 2010 and prompted a series of inquiries in Europe and elsewhere. The data was obtained from unsuspecting households as cars photographing the streets for the company´s Street View project drove by.
Johannes Caspar, a data protection commissioner in Hamburg, says that the new information will have a big impact on the situation. “Now “¦ we are learning that this wasn´t a mistake and that people within the company knew this information was being collected. That puts it in a totally different light.”
Kohnstamm recalled that Peter Fleischer, spoke at a hearing in the Netherlands on the incident in 2010. “Peter Fleischer made it pretty clear in his oral statement and in writing that it was the mistake of one single guy working at Google who had made a stupid mistake,” Kohnstamm said. “But apparently, it wasn´t a mistake at all. In a political sense, that would be considered contempt of Parliament and would mean the end of the career for the person responsible.”
The unauthorized collection of internet payload data, which the FCC determined was not illegal in the United States, is a violation of European law, Kohnstamm explained.
The engineer at the center of the controversy, Marius Milner, lives in California, which could complicate efforts by German prosecutors to question him. The engineer invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to speak with officials at the FCC.