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Attorneys General from approximately thirty states are discussing whether Google violated any laws when cars used by the company to snap pictures for the Street View service also collected personal information sent over a number of unsecured wireless networks. Last Thursday, Attorneys General of these states participated in a conference call to discuss whether to join forces in an effort to investigate the various incidents and potentially bring actions in each of their respective states against Google. About thirty states joined the conference call last week. A number of other states are also concerned, and both states that participated in the call and those that did not are discussing whether to pool their resources for an investigation.
On Tuesday, Richard Brodsky, a New York State assemblyman who is running for Attorney General, asked that state to conduct an investigation into whether Google violated criminal laws. In a letter to Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Attorney General, Mr. Brodsky asked for a formal investigation into whether Google violated a number of state criminal laws.
“Violating legitimate expectations of privacy on the part of both homeowners and business people is an extraordinarily serious issue, and we want all the facts as quickly as possible,” Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s Attorney General, said in a phone interview. Mr. Blumenthal said the conference call with his counterparts “was the first step in an effort to cooperate in a possible joint investigation and action. At this point, we are asking questions and frankly some of the answers we received so far have raised additional questions that we have put to the company.” Based on his comments, further investigation seems likely.
Last month Google revealed the collection of the private data at issue, such as e-mails and other communications from unsecured wireless networks. Since then, the company has faced international civil and criminal investigations from Australia and various European countries. In the United States, prior to the Attorneys’ General conference call, the matter has been the subject of Congressional inquiries and class action lawsuits in several states.
Google declined to comment on the individual investigations or lawsuits. However, the company reiterated earlier statements that its collection of data from Wi-Fi networks was a mistake, and not an illegal one. Christine Chen, a spokesperson for Google commented that, “this was a mistake, but we don’t we believe we did anything illegal.” In the spirit of cooperation, she added, “we’re working with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns.”
– Nicole Soussan
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