October 19, 2010

Spain Sues Google For Violation Of Data Protection Laws

The Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD) announced on Monday that it had filed a lawsuit against Google for allegedly violating the country's data protection laws.

In a statement posted on its website, the Spanish agency claims that Google illegally gathered data from Internet users as it collected images for its Street View mapping services.

The charges follow an investigation the AEPD launched in May, which the agency said provided evidence of five separate violations committed by Google.  These involved the collection and storage of data from Internet users connected to Wi-Fi networks as Google took photographs for its Street View service, and the transfer of this data to the United States.

The AEPD submitted the evidence to a court in Madrid.

If the allegations are proven true, Google could face fines of up to $840,000 for each offense. 

Google's Street View mapping service provides real-life images at various locations around the world.  But the collection of this data has triggered concerns over possible privacy violations. 

Earlier this year, Google acknowledged that its picture-taking vehicles had accidentally captured data from unsecured Wi-Fi systems.

The Internet search giant has repeatedly apologized for the incident, but authorities in several nations are investigating whether the company violated privacy laws.

The AEPD suit follows an earlier complaint by APEDANICA, an association in Spain that promotes Internet privacy rights, over the same issue.  A judge decided in August to investigate that complaint.

The El Mundo newspaper quoted sources at Google Spain as saying the company "deeply regrets having collected data in Spain."

However, it was "not used in any form or in any Google product and the company has never intended to use it in that way," the source said.