Congressman and Internet privacy group call for probe of street mapping service, which inadvertently collected and stored data from unencrypted wireless networks.

by Steven Musil

A U.S. congressman and an Internet privacy group are calling for further scrutiny of Google’s Street View street-mapping service, which collected and stored data from unencrypted wireless networks.

Google’s Street View cars, which were supposed to collect the locations of Wi-Fi access points, also inadvertently collected data about people’s online activities from unsecured Wi-Fi networks for four years.

“The circumstances surrounding Google’s surreptitious siphoning of personal information leave many unanswered questions,” Rep. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement today. “I believe Congress should immediately hold a hearing to get to the bottom of this serious situation.”

Meanwhile, the Electronic Privacy Information Center sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice to look into Google’s information gathering related to the mapping service.

“Google’s ‘Street View’ program has given rise to numerous investigations and lawsuits, but none have adequately determined whether Google’s conduct violated the federal Wire Tap Act,” Marc Rotenberg, EPIC’s executive director, said in the letter (PDF). “Given the inadequacy of the FCC’s investigation and the law enforcement responsibilities of the attorney general, EPIC urges the Department of Justice to investigate Google’s collection of Wi-Fi data from residential Wi-Fi networks.”

On Sunday, the FCC imposed a $25,000 fine on the company, alleging that the Web giant “deliberately impeded and delayed” its probe into the policies governing the mapping service.

Google representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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