Dutch watchdog ticks off Google

19th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

American internet giant Google has been intercepting private information in the Netherlands via people’s insecure wireless networks, says the Dutch Data Protection Authority CBP.

Google has destroyed the information: the company was threatened with damages imposed on a daily basis in case of non-compliance. The privacy watchdog says Google vehicles, which were taking photographs of Dutch streets for its Street View service, collected information which included medical and financial details.

Picking up the information is just one of the complaints the privacy watchdog has about Google. The company also collated the addresses or identification numbers of 3.6 million secure and insecure WiFiRouters. The CBP says these in combination with their location amount to personal details because they can be used to trace people.

Publically accessible The CBP says addresses and locations of the WiFiRouters collected by Google are to be found in a publically accessible database in the United States. The CBP is insisting Google take steps to inform the owners of the routers that addresses have been collected.

“It was a programming error which we reported as soon as it became apparent to us. We’re enormously sorry,” said a spokesperson for Google in the Netherlands. He stressed that the information had not been examined or used. When the GPS signal is poor, the wireless signals can allow mobile phones to be located.

Criticism Google’s Street View has faced criticism throughout the world, with governments and organisations voicing doubts about the way Google collects the details of internet users. It is thought that Google has not had to inform the owners of WiFiRouters in other countries, such as France, the United Kingdom and Germany, where Street View vehicles have also been active.

The CBP launched its investigation into how Google was collecting private information in the Netherlands in May 2010.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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