Google is at the centre of a political storm in Europe after admitting its Street View camera cars have collected packet data sent over public WiFi networks.
The firm blamed a software glitch for the error, which has seen its vehicles collect data thought to include web sites viewed by consumers and even their e-mails, and pledged a full investigation into the gaffe.
SVP of engineering and research Alan Eustace said the firm had no intention of collecting the data, and certainly no interest in using it, in his official blog.
“In 2006 an engineer working on an experimental WiFi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast WiFi data,” Eustace explained, adding. “When our mobile team started a project to collect basic WiFi network data like SSID information and MAC addresses using Google’s Street View cars, they included that code in their software.”
However, officials in Germany remain unconvinced by Eustace’s explanation, and are calling on the European Commission to investigate the controversial service.
Peter Schaar, Germany’s federal data protection commissioner, questioned whether Google’s assertion that such a large store of data was accumulated without anybody noticing was true, in a blog post.
The glitch was revealed a fortnight ago, when German officials asked for a detailed summary of the data being collected, the New York Times reports.
Germany’s EC delegate Johannes Caspar, told the newspaper the blunder was “a data scandal of a [large] magnitude,” but did not speculate on what action the EC may take.
The revelation capped a bad week for Google, after the firm revealed it was closing its online Nexus One store following disappointing sales.
VP of engineering Andy Rubin said the store had remained “a niche channel for early adopters,” and said the handset would be sold via operator partner’s retail outlets instead.