October 28, 2010

Who’s Afraid of Google?


A camera used for Google street view is pictured at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover March 2, 2010.
Credit: Reuters/Christian Charisius

The Law of Karma strikes again: just while U.S. regulators looking at Google’s data grab by “Street View” cars were deciding to end their inquiry, noting improvements that the search giant has made to build consumer privacy into its corporate structure, in Italy, Rome prosecutors started investigating whether Google’s Inc.'s “Street View” mapping service violated privacy laws.

The probe was opened at the request of Italy’s privacy watchdog after Google itself admitted personal data was being picked up by its fleet of wi-fi cars moving down residential streets. Through its lawyers, Google Italy said it was ready to “cooperate with authorities.” It stressed that the data collected from wi-fi networks had never been “used by or communicated to” third parties.

Google Italy added that “the accidental gathering of wi-fi data by the Street View cars was an error we are deeply sorry for, and for which we apologize.”

But Rome prosecutors are not the only European regulators to have opened investigations into the case: French, German and Spanish regulators, among others, have done exactly the same. As it was not enough a coalition of more than 30 state attorneys general in the U.S. has also launched a joint probe.

Doesn’t all of this hubbub seem a bit exaggerated? Who’s afraid of Google?



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