Regulators and commissioners in several countries express dismay and demand information from Google: It will likely turn out that Google collected only nonsense from its passive scanning of open Wi-Fi networks, but nonsense or no, the company will face increased scrutiny all over the world as a result. It's fairly ridiculous the company didn't know it was collecting such data; it shows a lack of oversight of the code base and the results. But it will have serious political and regulatory consequences.
I won't attempt to link to every bit of news, because there's simply too much. The New York Times has a good overview in looking at the Hamburg data protection supervisor, who wants Google to turn over a hard drive containing some of the collected material. (It would be nice if the Times would get WLAN right: wireless local area network, typically called a Wi-Fi network, rather than "wireless area network," which is just wrong.)
Google hasn't yet responded to that, although it has destroyed some data (under third-party supervision) collected in the Republic of Ireland after an order from the Irish Data Protection Authority. The UK Information Commission Office has made a similar order.
Skyhook Wireless's chief, Ted Morgan, explained to Motley Fool how his firm had specifically avoided capturing any data other than simple beaconing details. He told the Fool, "when you are doing the passive sniffing you have to make sure you are not accessing private network messages. It's not a hard thing to do; you just do not record those messages."
The FTC in the US will likely open an inquiry into Google's data collection, too, the Wall Street Journal says. Canada's regulators have said they will contact counterparts in nine other countries to discuss Google's actions, USA Today says.
Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, is trying to wave his hands to get rid of the problem. The Times Online reports that at a Google conference in England he said that "the company had not authorised the activity of its Street View cars"--another way of trying to pass the buck. You're the CEO. If the company is engaged in the activity, then you are responsible for it, regardless of which manager screwed up.
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