Canada investigates Google Wi-Fi data harvesting

Canada is the latest country to launch an investigation into how Google came to harvest unsecured Wi-Fi data through Street View

Canada has become the latest country to investigate Google over its collection of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

The privacy commissioner of Canada follows a number of European data watchdogs, including France, Germany and Spain, in launching a formal investigation into Google's collection of the information.

"We are very concerned about the privacy implications stemming from Google's confirmation that it had been capturing Wi-Fi data in neighbourhoods across Canada and around the world over the past several years," said privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart on Tuesday.

Google said on Wednesday that it would continue to work with privacy authorities around the world regarding the captured data.

"We're working with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns," said a Google spokesperson.

Google admitted in May that it had been collecting 'payload' data — or information sent over Wi-Fi networks — as part of its Street View operation. Google said it had collected the data unintentionally, and that the data could include samples of any information sent over unsecured networks.

Google's logging of Wi-Fi networks by its Street View cars came to light in April, following an investigation by German privacy authorities. Google said in a statement last week that the data protection authority in Hamburg had made a number of requests, including to be given access to an original hard drive containing the payload data and to a Street View car.

Google has granted access to the car, but at the time of writing were working on overcoming legal challenges presented by making the data available to the German authorities.

In the UK, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) requested that Google delete the data it has collected. The Irish, Danish and Austrian data protection authorities have also requested that the data be deleted. Google is keeping the data from Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, in response to requests from data protection authorities in those countries, the company said in a separate statement.

Google said that at least one of the data protection authorities that had instructed it to delete data had later retracted the request.

"Given that there is some uncertainty about deletion generally — for example, at least one data protection authority changed its instruction from delete to retain in the last few days — we think it makes sense to keep the remaining country data while we work through these issues," said the statement.

The ICO has not retracted its request for the data to be deleted.


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