Commentary

Conn. AG To Lead Probe Of Google's Payload Data Mistake

The fallout from Google's WiFi spying scandal seems to be worsening for the search giant. Today, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he would lead a 30-state investigation of the company's collection of payload data from unsecured WiFi networks.

Google has consistently said it didn't intentionally collect the payload data and never made use of it -- but clearly, critics like Blumenthal are suspicious of the company.

"Street View cannot mean Complete View -- invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications," Blumenthal says in a statement. "Consumers have a right and a need to know what personal information -- which could include emails, web browsing and passwords -- Google may have collected, how and why."

Blumenthal also publicized a list of questions for Google. Among others, he wants the search giant to answer why it saved data "it says was accidentally collected."

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Despite the attorney general's statements, Google's accidental WiFi data collection seems more innocuous than other privacy glitches -- including its own disastrous launch of Buzz.

When Google launched Buzz, the feature initially revealed information about the names of users' email contacts, if people activated Buzz without changing the defaults. Since then, Google has significantly revised the service; now, it merely suggests followers, rather than automatically creating them.

And Google's WiFi problem doesn't seem as bad as Facebook's recent debacles. Among others, a report surfaced last month alleging that the company was still "leaking" information about users to advertisers -- despite being notified about the problem last year.

Additionally, Facebook's new instant personalization program tells Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft Docs the names of their visitors who also are Facebook users -- a feature that lawmakers and privacy advocates have criticized for operating by default.

For all of the problems with Google's Street View, the company at least never shared information about users it might have collected with outside parties.

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