Google Street View Teams Broke New Zealand Privacy Law

GoogleStreetViewCar

Google broke New Zealand's privacy law when the company's Street View cars captured WiFi data from unsecured networks, the country's privacy commissioner said on Tuesday.

But the search giant, which apologized for the privacy lapse, reportedly won't face any sanctions, because the privacy authorities lack the authority to fine companies. New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said in a statement that she is "pleased that Google has taken full responsibility for the mistakes it made here, and that it has improved its practices to prevent future privacy breaches."

Google still faces inquiries in several other countries, however, as well as in the U.S., where Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is conducting a multi-state investigation. Last week, Blumenthal said he subpoenaed a host of material from Google, including specifics about the data that was intercepted. Blumenthal gave Google until this Friday to respond.

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In addition, Google faces a potential class-action lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of California.

The inquiries and litigation stem from Google's admission earlier this year that its Street View cars collected "payload" data -- including emails, passwords and URLs -- from unsecured WiFi networks.

While the acknowledgment sparked criticism of the company, it isn't clear whether Google violated any U.S. laws by intercepting data from networks that were not password-protected.

The Federal Trade Commission recently closed its investigation into the matter without instituting an enforcement action. Consumer protection head David Vladeck said in a letter to Google that the agency ended its inquiry due to the company's assurance that it intends to destroy the data collected combined with recent measures to improve privacy. Among others, Google also said it would increase employee training and implement new, internal privacy measures.

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