May 28, 2010

Google Ordered To Turn Over Wireless Data Collected

A federal judge has ordered Google to turn over its copies of U.S. private wireless data it captured while taking photos from a vehicle during its "Street View" mapping service.

The encrypted data will be held under seal and kept as a backup if any of it is determined to be legally admissible evidence in a class action case filed against Google in federal court in the state of Oregon.

Google is facing several suits throughout the U.S. by states that are demanding millions of dollars in damages over its collection of personal wireless information.

The litigation accuses Google of violating local and federal privacy laws when Street View vehicles out taking pictures for its online database also collected unencrypted data from open Wi-Fi networks.

Google apologized for the actions and said it was because of the inadvertent gathering of fragments of personal data sent over unsecured Wi-Fi systems.

"Google will retain the source hard drive and the encryption key," District Court Judge Michael Mosman said in an order issued this week and posted online on Thursday.

"Access to the data on the source hard drive retained by Google will be determined in the normal course of discovery."

Discovery is the legal term for the process of gathering evidence to be used in court.  According to the judge's order, the "clone hard drive" will be kept safe in court as a backup.

U.S. lawmakers have asked regulators whether Google had broken the law by capturing personal wireless data and Italian and German authorities are also looking into the same situation.

Street View allows users to access pictures of street scenes on Google Maps and perform a virtual "walk" through cities like New York, Paris or Hong Kong.


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