Google accused of criminal act

Google is “almost certain”
to face prosecution for collecting data from unsecured wi-fi networks, according
to Privacy International (PI).

The search giant has been under
scrutiny for collecting wi-fi data as part of its StreetView project.

Google has released an independent
audit of the rogue code, which it has claimed was included in the StreetView
software by mistake.

But PI is convinced the audit
proves “criminal intent”.

“The independent audit of the
Google system shows that the system used for the wi-fi collection intentionally
separated out unencrypted content (payload data) of communications and
systematically wrote this data to hard drives. This is equivalent to placing a
hard tap and a digital recorder onto a phone wire without consent or authorisation,”
said PI in a statement.

This would put Google at odds with
the interception laws of the 30 countries that the system was used in, it
added.

“The Germans are almost
certain to prosecute. Because there was intent, they have no choice but to
prosecute,” said Simon Davies, head of PI.

In the UK the ICO has said it is
reviewing the audit but that for the time being it had no plans to pursue the
matter.

PI however does intend to take the
case to the police.

“I don’t see any alternative
but for us to go to Scotland Yard,” said Mr Davies.

The revelation that Google had
collected such data led the German Information Commissioner to demand it handed
over a hard-disk so it could examine exactly what it had collected.

It has not yet received the data
and has extended the original deadline for it to be handed over.

The Australian police have also
been ordered to investigate Google for possible breach of privacy.

According to Google, the code which
allowed data to be collected was part of an experimental wi-fi project
undertaken by an unnamed engineer to improve location-based services and was
never intended to be incorporated in the software for StreetView.