South Korea says Google Street View broke law

Police there reportedly say search giant broke local laws by collecting personal data from Wi-Fi networks. Prosecutors still deciding whether to officially press charges.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Police in South Korea reportedly say Google broke the country's law when its Street View service captured personal data from unsecure Wi-Fi networks.

The Korean Police Department will now send the case to prosecutors, who will decide whether to formally charge the search giant, says the Associated Press.

Google has been accused of capturing personal information from wireless networks as its Street View service took photos of South Korean neighborhoods between October 2009 and May 2010. The case kicked off last August when South Korean police raided the local offices of Google in an attempt to determine whether the company had violated local laws.

After examining hard drives collected during the raid, South Korean police found that the company had broken two laws--one concerning privacy over telecommunications networks and another designed to protect information about physical locations, Reuters reported. If charged, Google would face fines of up to 50 million won ($44,800) and 30 million won ($26,900), respectively, for breaking the two laws, added Reuters.

In response to the latest news out of Korea, Google released the following statement, which was sent to CNET:

"As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks. As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting all Wi-Fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities. While we have repeatedly acknowledged that this was a mistake, we believe Google did nothing illegal in Korea, and we are working with the relevant authorities to respond to their questions and concerns. We have been cooperating with the Korean Communications Commission and the police, and will continue to do so. Again, our ultimate objective remains to delete the data consistent with our legal obligations and in consultation with the appropriate authorities."

Google has found itself up against a slew of lawsuits and government probes after it admitted that its Street View service had collected personal information from Wi-Fi networks as it went on photo tours of different countries. But the company has insisted that it did nothing illegal since the data collection was done accidentally and without its knowledge.

Updated at 9:45 PT with a statement from Google.