Google ends WiFi collection after personal data captured

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Google said Friday it will no longer collect WiFi network information for its "Street View" mapping service after "mistakenly" gathering personal wireless data.

"Maintaining people's trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short," Alan Eustace, a Google senior vice president for engineering and research, said in a blog post.

Although Google has stated previously it did not collect any personal data, "it's now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (ie non-password-protected) WiFi networks," Eustace said.

He said Google discovered that personal wireless data had been collected following a request for information from the Data Protection Authority in Hamburg, Germany, where the "Street View" product has been under attack from privacy advocates.

Eustace said the Internet giant was taking steps to delete the data collected by the cars which carry out the "Street View" photography used on Google Maps.

"We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and are currently reaching out to regulators in the relevant countries about how to quickly dispose of it," he said.

"Given the concerns raised, we have decided that it's best to stop our Street View cars collecting WiFi network data entirely," he added.

Eustace said personal wireless data was mistakenly collected only from unsecured, or non-password-protected WiFi networks, and "we never used that data in any Google products."

"The engineering team at Google works hard to earn your trust -- and we are acutely aware that we failed badly here," he said.

"We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake," Eustace said.

© 2010 AFP

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