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Met Police to investigate Google Wi-Fi data collection

Police follow up complaint from Privacy International

The Metropolitan Police force has confirmed it will investigate Google following the company's recent admission it had mistakenly collected data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks for the past three years.

"The MPS has received a complaint regarding alleged access to online activities broadcast over unprotected home and business Wi-Fi networks," the police force told PC Pro.

"The matter is now under consideration. It has yet to be determined what, if any, offences may have allegedly occurred."

The police will first identify if any laws have been broken. If so, the initial investigation is expected to take up to ten days.

The investigation follows a complaint from Privacy International  over Google's activities.

"I don't see any alternative but for us to go to Scotland Yard," Simon Davies from Privacy International said last week.

Davies was referring to the UK Information Commissioner's Office's (ICO) reluctance to investigate the matter.

The ICO said while it was aware of the issue, it would only investigate if it finds "evidence of significant wrongdoing".

Google's error came to light after the German data protection authority audited the Wi-Fi data collected by Street View cars for use in location-based products such as Google Maps for mobile.

The authority revealed that as well as collecting SSID information (the network's name) and MAC addresses (the number given to Wi-Fi devices such as a router), Google had also been collecting payload data such as emails or web page content being viewed.

However, the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL), which has started its own investigation into the issue, passwords and emails were among the Wi-Fi data mistakenly collected.

"We are pleased that the police have taken up this complaint for investigation. An evidence based approach to this complex matter is sorely needed now," said Davies.

"We hope that this difficult process will give Google pause for thought about how it conducts itself. Perhaps in future the company will rely less on PR spin and more on good governance and reliable product oversight."

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

See also: Google Wi-Fi data gathering 'not illegal'


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