Canadian Investigation confirms Google unlawfully collected personal data

google-maps-carAccording to a report published by the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, the world’s largest online search engine, Google, inadvertently violated Canadian privacy laws by erroneously collecting personal information from citizens while the company mapped Canadian streets for its popular Google Street View service in 2008.

The company uses specialized vehicles equipped with advanced camera technologies, GPS, and wireless devices to map cities around the world.

While the vehicles were traveling throughout Canada, the wireless devices on the Google vehicles connected to personal unsecured WiFi networks, collecting personal information, including, without limitation, complete email conversations, user names and passwords.

According to the investigation, the erroneous error was made in 2006 when a Google programmer developed a side project of software that was designed to sample public WiFi data that included the capability to collect personal information.

That project was never forwarded to any internal committee for review, and the company maintains it was not aware of any wrongdoing.

“This incident was a serious violation of Canadians’ privacy rights,” says Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

Google acknowledged the error, and publically said it would keep the data secured until the completion of all investigations, at which point it would simply permanently delete the data.

The Commissioner’s report suggested Google should implement new internal governance controls to ensure future compliance, and to have future projects reviewed by its legal committee to evaluate possible infractions and implications.

The Google stock (NASDAQ:GOOG) is down nearly 1-percent to $612.37 per share in mid-day trading.


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Hercules holds a B.Comm Finance from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) level 3 candidate. He was previously a contributor at FiLife, a finance website owned by Dow Jones and IAC. Write to hercules@business2press.com
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  • cfrw

    Being ignorant of the law is no excuse. Google should be forced to delete all the data immediately. This could also spawn a huge class action lawsuit.

    • http://business2press.com Hercules K

      I don’t think a class action would work, I mean who knows if their data was compromised, and I’m sure those specific details wouldn’t be released by the company…

      • Noway

        Your kidding right? Yes I’m sure information has no value and we can trust big business. Wow some people will never get it.

      • Noway

        Your kidding right? Yes I’m sure information has no value and we can trust big business. Wow some people will never get it.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZEMGKR5MGBWPOYCIUURV5EO2JA jon g

      Deleting the data is easy and has been what Google stated would be done since the beginning. While there is an investigation that would be considered desctruction of evidence and is very illegal.

  • Gfsg

    Google only collected data from unencrypted wifi networks. If people are broadcasting their network without protecting them, how do they expect their data to remain private?

    • Acroho

      so if i leave my house door unlocked does that mean people can come right in? nope.

      • Commenter

        Yes, but if you’re shouting out of your window you shouldn’t be terribly surprised if someone hears it, or outraged if someone happens to tape it.

      • Commenter

        Yes, but if you’re shouting out of your window you shouldn’t be terribly surprised if someone hears it, or outraged if someone happens to tape it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradenunruh Braden Charles Unruh

    collecting personal information, including, without limitation, complete email conversations, user names and passwords.

    Bullshit. That would require that they do legit hacking with the intent of collecting that data. And if they had – people would be flipping out. It would be a gargantuan stock murdering international incedent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradenunruh Braden Charles Unruh

    collecting personal information, including, without limitation, complete email conversations, user names and passwords.

    Bullshit. That would require that they do legit hacking with the intent of collecting that data. And if they had – people would be flipping out. It would be a gargantuan stock murdering international incedent.

    • Some Guy

      Actually, that wouldn’t require any real hacking. The information was being broadcast. All Google was doing was receiving all unencrypted information that was being transmitted. It really would have just looked like a bunch of junk until it was actually sifted through and the only thing it requires to receive is a listener.

  • http://www.visibilityextremist.com simon_hamer

    Ignorance of the law is no defence.
    Did it know it was breaking the law? … ofcourse it did.
    Did it know it would get found out? … No.
    I wonder which corporations in the USA now have this data?
    Surely you don’t think it would collect all this, if it could not sell it…. or do you ?

  • http://www.visibilityextremist.com simon_hamer

    Ignorance of the law is no defence.
    Did it know it was breaking the law? … ofcourse it did.
    Did it know it would get found out? … No.
    I wonder which corporations in the USA now have this data?
    Surely you don’t think it would collect all this, if it could not sell it…. or do you ?

  • http://twitter.com/1fennec fennec du sahara

    Privacy !? or Privacy Rights !? … when I read this I always laugh :) Privacy is nothing else then a JOKE . There is no more privacy cause we are all under WATCH … Just Google your full name and you will be surprised. Someone or something invading our privacy everyday. your cellphone is traceable GPS, SMS, IM, Call. ..etc. Your emails, photos, your comments in any social web, everyone is sharing his Privacy by doing something. They know what you like and what you dislike they know even how do you think. So Please give me a Break !!! cause Privacy is a JOKE not the day but everyday.

  • http://twitter.com/1fennec fennec du sahara

    Privacy !? or Privacy Rights !? … when I read this I always laugh :) Privacy is nothing else then a JOKE . There is no more privacy cause we are all under WATCH … Just Google your full name and you will be surprised. Someone or something invading our privacy everyday. your cellphone is traceable GPS, SMS, IM, Call. ..etc. Your emails, photos, your comments in any social web, everyone is sharing his Privacy by doing something. They know what you like and what you dislike they know even how do you think. So Please give me a Break !!! cause Privacy is a JOKE not the day but everyday.

  • http://messigirlfriend.com/ SANA IRFAN KHAN

    i cannot expect such a blunder from google

  • http://messigirlfriend.com/ SANA IRFAN KHAN

    i cannot expect such a blunder from google

  • http://ticks-on-dogs.net Elias

    Google has been collecting data for a long time and nothing gone change in near future.

  • http://ticks-on-dogs.net Elias

    Google has been collecting data for a long time and nothing gone change in near future.

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