Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the search engine will cede the data it accidentally collected over WiFi to regulators in Germany, France and Spain. Google will also publish the results of an external audit into its Street View data collection practice and will exact an internal review into all its privacy practices, releasing the results within the next month. Google's Street View cars unwittingly collected 600 gigabytes' worth of fragmented e-mail, Web browsing and other data from unsecured WiFi networks in 33 regions.
Responding to the growing outcry over it privacy practices, Google CEO
Eric Schmidt said the search engine will cede the data it accidentally
collected over WiFi to regulators in Germany,
France and Spain.
Google May 14 acknowledged
that its Street View cars, which take pictures for
Google Maps, unwittingly collected 600 gigabytes' worth of fragmented e-mail,
Web browsing and other data from unsecured WiFi networks.
This happened in 33 regions, including the United
Hong Kong, Spain
and France from
2007 until Google discovered the faux pas this year and said it ceased
collecting WiFi data for good.
While Google deleted data in Ireland,
Denmark and Austria,
it did not do so in Germany
and other countries, citing
the need to review privacy laws and other legal issues.
Google changed its tune, as Schmidt told the Financial Times
June 3 that Google will hand over the
collected WiFi data to German, French and Spanish data protection authorities
within two days.
"We screwed up. Let's be very clear about that," Schmidt told the
Times. "If you are honest about your mistakes it is the best defense for
it not happening again."
Google will also publish the results of an external audit into its Street
View data collection practice. The company will further review all its privacy
practices, releasing the results within the next month.
Schmidt claimed Google is conducting an internal investigation against the
software programmer who created the code that collected the WiFi data, a
violation of the company's rules.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the accuracy of the report with eWEEK but
declined to provide additional information.
Cries of discontent over this flouting of user privacy are no quieter in the
where Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz told Congress that his
group will investigate the incident.
Reps. Joe Barton, Henry Waxman and Edward Markey wrote a May 26 letter to
Schmidt saying they wanted to know how much personal data the company gathered
from what has become known in some quarters as the WiSpy incident.
The so-called WiSpy incident is the second privacy firestorm Google must try
to extinguish. The company launched its Google Buzz
social conversation service in
February, only to shock users by exposing their Gmail contacts to the public on
Google profile pages.