US halts Google Wi-Fi data collection probe

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US halts Google Wi-Fi data collection probe

Warwick Ashford

Just days after the UK privacy watchdog announced it would re-open its investigation into Google's harvesting of Wi-Fi data using its Streetview vehicles in 2007, US authorities have halted their inquiry.

Regulators elsewhere in Europe and Canada have intensified their scrutiny after Google admitted that, in some cases, quite detailed information was collected.

Italy is demanding that Google clearly mark Streetview vehicles and register their planned routes, Czech authorities have banned Streetview entirely and Germany has insisted on allowing homeowners to opt out of the service.

But the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has said it is satisfied that Google has addressed the matter internally by improving its privacy policies.

The FTC said it had also received assurances from Google that it has not used and will not use any of the data collected in any Google product or service

But the FTC decision marks the end of only one of the major probes into the most damaging privacy breach to hit the company to date, according to the Financial Times.

Google is still facing investigations by individual state attorneys-general in the US, and regulators in the UK, Spain and Canada.

The FTC said although it was concerned about the recent revelation that not all data was fragmentary, and had sometimes included details like e-mail addresses, the commission was satisfied with Google's renewed commitment to privacy, including appointing a new director of privacy for engineering.

Privacy advocates have criticised the decision, accusing the FTC of failing to consult anyone outside Google to determine whether the company had broken privacy rules.


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