Google agrees to hand over WiFi data to Connecticut

Connecticut's attorney general and its consumer protection commissioner said they've reached an agreement with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) over the search giant's refusal to cooperate with a civil investigative demand to hand over data it collected from unsecured WiFi networks in that state.

Former Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had issued, in cooperation with the state's Department of Consumer Protection, a civil investigative complaint that compelled Google to hand over the data by Dec. 17. Google refused. The action stems from last May, when Google admitted it unknowingly collected WiFi payload data from access points that might have included personal information via its Street View Cars. And later it admitted the information included entire email addresses, web addresses and passwords.

This latest action will allow Google and the state of Connecticut, along with the 40-state coalition it is leading, to begin negotiations to resolve the data collection issue without going to court to enforce the civil investigative demand, which is equivalent to a subpoena.

"This is a good result for the people of Connecticut," said newly elected AG George Jepsen. "The stipulation means we can proceed to negotiate a settlement of the critical privacy issues implicated here without the need for a protracted and costly fight in the courts, although we are ready to do so if we are unable to come to a satisfactory agreement through negotiation."

The subpoena was issued after Google refused to provide access to information requested to confirm that Google had gathered private information and to determine the frequency of any violations of law. The AG's office wants to verify what confidential information Google wrongfully collected.  

Google has acknowledged that while collecting network identification information for use in offering "location aware" services, it did in fact collect and store the payload data that contained private information. In particular, Google stipulates, for purposes of settlement discussions, the payload data collected contained URLs of requested Web pages, partial or complete email communications or other information, including confidential and private information the network users was transmitting over unsecured networks while Google's Street View car was within range.

Google also has agreed that during settlement negotiations it will not contest that private information was collected every day that the Street View cars operated. Negotiations with Google are continuing.

For more:
- see this release

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