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Google's fleet of Street View cars, the vehicles the company uses to create its virtual mapping service, are being scrutinized by governments around the globe for violating privacy laws. Back in May, Germany realized the cars were scanning unsecured Wi-Fi networks and collecting private user data. South Korea was next, raiding Google headquarters in Seoul in August. Now, not to be outdone, Canada and Spain have raised a stink over privacy too.
Today, America's hat concluded its investigation, finding that Google did indeed violate privacy law. Google's Street View vehicles "inappropriately" collected personal information that included emails, email addresses, usernames, passwords, names, telephone numbers, street addresses--even very sensitive information such as medical records.
On Monday, Spain's Data Protection Agency said its preparing to fine Google over similar infractions. The agency said in a statement that the company's data collection falls into five categories of violations, and that the company could be penalized for two serious infractions and three very serious infractions. The fine could be as high as €300,000 (US$417,000) for a serious infraction, and double that if classified as a very serious infraction.
As long as Google deletes all the information it collected by Feb. 1, Canada's Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says the case will be closed.
Instead, the company will collect WiFi network data via handsets.
Google already collects WiFi network data via the handsets themselves.
According to the suit, Google Android boss Andy Rubin told Motorola co-chief executive Sanjay Jha that if the handset manufacturer didn't drop Skyhook from its phones, Google would remove official Android support from the devices.
Google acknowledged Friday the cars it uses to collect data for its online mapping service had gathered entire emails and passwords.
The development comes as Google faces heightened regulatory scrutiny around the world prompted by revelations in May that its cars had collected personal data from unsecured wireless networks while taking photos for its Street View mapping service. Google initially said the data was fragmentary, but external reviews discovered that some of the data was more complete than expected.