Accused of Collecting More Than Web Info.. The all-to-familiar mega-master-mind of the web, Google Inc., was ordered by Oregon District Court to hand over data related to information they have been collecting on more than just websites.
Google Inc. uses cars, bikes and about any kind of vehicle they need to go around the planet collecting information. Houses, businesses, buildings and landscape are not the only things of interest to this mega-rich, powerful information sourcing company.
Turns out they have been caught not only locating Wi-Fi locations, but even monitoring what is going over the connections. Or at least, that is the charges being brought before the court on behalf of the people of Oregon.
Google Inc. has been ordered to turn over to an Oregon district court by next week data it collected with people’s e-mails, files and digital phone records, according to court documents.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers today also requested that Google preserve any information related to its data gathering.
Google sends out cars to photograph streets and houses that people can see with the Street View feature in Google Maps. The vehicles also scanned for Wi-Fi networks used for Internet access and collected private data from the wireless networks of some homes, according to a complaint filed by two people who may have been affected. Google said in a blog earlier this month it mistakenly collected the Wi-Fi data.
Oregon District Court Judge Michael Mosman issued a restraining order this week to stop Google from destroying the data it gathered and to turn over copies of the information, after Google deleted similar data from other countries. Vicki Van Valin and Neil Mertz, who sued Google for invasion of privacy, said that destroying the data would hurt their ability to prove Google’s wrongdoing and assess damages, according to a complaint filed on May 17.
Google, based in Mountain View, California, argued in a filing the district court’s order is unnecessary since it had taken steps to secure the data.
The Oregon case brings to Google’s home turf a debate over its privacy practices that has been fought primarily overseas, said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Van Valin and Mertz said in their case that Google used customized snowmobiles and even tricycles to photograph pedestrian walkways, ski resorts and other areas inaccessible by car. The plaintiffs filed their suit on behalf of people in Oregon and Washington.
Google also appeared to be creating maps of Wi-Fi networks, or hot spots, around the world, which could have given the company a powerful advantage over rivals, Rotenberg said.
“It was basically mapping the wireless Internet, but it wasn’t telling anyone it was doing that,” Rotenberg said. “There’s been a lot of privacy discussion around Street View, but most of it was around the collection of images. The much bigger story will be that Google was mapping the wireless Internet.”