European regulators to get Google Wi-Fi data

Personal data collected as part of Google's Street View project will be turned over to authorities in four European countries. Google plans to publish review of how mess happened.

Updated 7:15 p.m. with additional information.

Google will publish the results of an third-party audit into its Wi-Fi data gathering gaffe and hand over the personal data that it gathered to European officials.

Google Eric Schmidt
Google CEO Eric Schmidt Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google CEO Eric Schmidt told The Financial Times Thursday that Google plans to turn over personal data gathered as part of its Street View project to data protection authorities in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, where investigations are pending into the revelation that Google was gathering a lot more than pictures of streetscapes with its Street View cars. Google is also facing lawsuits and inquiries in the U.S. over the issue, but it's not clear what Google plans to do with data gathered in this country.

Schmidt said that Google plans to publish an "external review" of the Wi-Fi data collection process, and will conduct an internal review designed to figure out how this could have happened, which will also be published . Additionally, according to the report, the Google engineer who wrote the code that allowed Google's Street View cars to collect personal data is facing a "disciplinary procedure" that was not further explained.

A Google representative declined to comment further.

After initially claiming its Street View cars merely collected information as to the location of Wi-Fi hot spots for mapping purposes--as several companies do--Google was forced to admit that its data gathering was more extensive, siphoning 600GBs of "payload" data over three years from unsecured public Wi-Fi hot spots around the world. Google has said the gathering was inadvertent, and technical experts familiar with the Kismet software used by Google believe the company failed to correctly modify the code to prevent such data from being gathered.

"If you are honest about your mistakes it is the best defense for it not happening again," Schmidt told the Financial Times. Not everyone believes Google made an honest mistake, however, and class-action lawsuits pending in Oregon, California, and Massachusetts could prove to be a real headache for the company.

Updated 7:15 p.m.: The Financial Times has updated their article to reflect that "an internal investigation" is pending involving the engineer that authored the code, which is not exactly the same as Google imposing "a disciplinary procedure." A source familiar with Google's plans said the company is currently holding onto the personal data collected in the U.S. as it works with federal authorities on the matter, and that it expects to publish the results of the external review into its code sometime over the next week or two.

About the author

    Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.

     

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