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Google skips German deadline for Wi-Fi data

Data protection laws--of all things--could be used by Google to avoid having to turn over data collected as part of its Wi-Fi Street View incident to German authorities.

Google has yet to turn over data collected as part of its Street View program to German authorities, and could be prepared to hold out for some time.

The New York Times and Financial Times reported that Google missed a Wednesday deadline to turn over the data it collected from unsecured Wi-Fi networks by its Street View cars, a practice which Google has said was done inadvertently but has raised the hackles of critics and privacy advocates. Google did provide German authorities with a written explanation of how the incident occurred, according to the AP, but it's declining to provide the actual data citing, of all things, data protection laws.

"We want to cooperate with [the Hamburg information commissioner's] requests...but as granting access to payload data creates legal challenges in Germany, which we need to review, we are continuing to discuss the appropriate legal and logistical process for making the data available. We hope, given more time, to be able to resolve this difficult issue," the Financial Times quoted Google as saying. Some privacy groups, while criticizing Google for collecting the data, appear to agree that turning that over to governments at this point is not that much better than having it stored by a private company.

Google has not said exactly what kind of payload data it collected, only that it was fragmented. It disclosed the existence of the data after first proclaiming it didn't collect such data in response to concerns of German authorities, and has since promised to open the project up to a third party to go over the software used to collect the data and figure out a way to delete it appropriately.

In its home country, Google faces inquiries from members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission over the incident, not to mention several lawsuits.

Update 1:34 p.m.: One of those lawsuits is in full swing, as an Oregon judge Thursday slapped a restraining order on Google, preventing it from deleting the data at issue in a class-action lawsuit filed in that state last week. Google was also instructed to send the court two copies of the hard drive containing the data, according to a copy of the order noticed by Business Insider.