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Germany Putting Google’s Actions Under Investigation

May 20, 2010

Google Inc. is being investigated by German prosecutors on suspicion of violating privacy laws by recording fragments of people’s activities through unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Hamburg prosecutor Wilhelm Moellers told DAPD news that his office launched the investigation after a complaint was filed against the Internet giant’s employees over the incident last Friday.

“The tapping of data is believed to have taken place over unsecured Wi-Fi networks in connection with ‘Street View’” activity, Moellers said. “We will above all have to clarify whether the offense was deliberate.”

Google acknowledged the mistake and issued an apology for it last Friday, saying it had been inadvertently storing fragments of people’s online activities for the past four years while expanding its “Street View” mapping service.

The company has become a center for criticism from authorities throughout Europe, where strict privacy laws regulate how much of a citizen’s personal details may be released or shared without their consent.  Suspicion that Google was showing too much in its attempts to provide detailed online maps has been aggravated by the breach, which German authorities noticed.

Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office teamed up with Germany in calling for Google to destroy the data, although it said it was unlikely that anything more than fragments of data had been obtained.

Google has been sending cars out throughout Europe equipped with mounted cameras intended to take pictures that are broadcasted through the “Street View” map program.

The Czech Office for Personal Data Protection also said it is investigating Google for its failure to meet necessary requirements needed to collect data used for “Street View.”

Spokeswoman Hana Stepankova told the Associated Press that her office had received a number of complaints from citizens about Google’s activities.

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