The French Commission nationale de l’information et des libertes (CNIL), a privacy watchdog group, has sued Google for 100,000 euros for collecting personal data. The information was collected by Google’s roaming cars and bicycles between 2007 and 2010 as part of Street View. The information was collected from local Wi-Fi networks and stored on Google’s servers.
France is the first among some two dozen countries that have complained about Google’s collection of personal information, and more fines may be forthcoming. These countries include the United States, where the Federal Communications Commission is investigating Google’s past practices. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission dropped a similar complaint against the search engine.
Google’s Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fischer responded that, “We are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting Wi-Fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities.” The company says that the collection of data was a simple engineering error.
The CNIL’s Executive Director Yann Padova was reluctant to accept the apology, saying, “They were not always willing to co-operate with us. They didn’t give us all the information we asked for, like the source code of all devices in the Google cars. They were not always very transparent.”
Despite the growing opposition to Street View, a German court has ruled that Google is acting within the law with its efforts to collect images of every city’s streets. This ruling came in response to a law suit filed by a woman who argued that the images might infringe on her privacy. On the other hand, since the ruling deals with the possibility that a Google camera might infringe on her privacy rather than on Google actually having infringed on it, it is unlikely whether it can be cited as precedent in future cases.