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Netherlands vs. Google

April 20, 2011

Dutch authorities say Google recorded data over 3.6 million WiFi hotspots. The California company has again apologized, noting that it has already deleted this data collected in the Netherlands.

Street View cars
Google collected WiFi data while deploying its Street View carsImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The Netherlands has added itself to the list of countries taking Google to task for saving private wireless Internet connection data while cruising through Dutch cities and towns for its Street View maps.

The Dutch Data Protection Agency (DPA) on Tuesday called on Google to contact the 3.6 million WiFi network owners in the Netherlands and offer them a way to have the data the US-based Internet giant saved removed from servers.

The Dutch DPA said Google has been ordered to inform the affected parties about the company's collection of their data.

"Within the same period of three months, Google must also offer an on line possibility to opt-out from the database in order to enable people to object to the processing of the data concerning their WiFi routers," the authority wrote in an English-language statement posted to its website.

A Google Map showing where the Street View service is available
Google Street View has come under fire in a number of European countriesImage: google.de

"In case Google does not comply with the administrative order within the time period granted, the penalty amount can increase to a maximum of 1 million euros," the DPA wrote. "Furthermore, Google is obliged to destroy the payload data it has collected in the Netherlands within four weeks."

Dutch join French, Spanish, others

As occurred in other countries, including Germany and the UK, the information on unencrypted wireless access points was collected as part of Google's Street View, which provides street-level views for the company map service.

The Dutch move is the latest in a string of legal moves undertaken against Google across Europe in the wake of what the company has called inadvertent data collection.

Last month, the French data protection agency, CNIL, fined Google 100,000 euros ($144,000) on similar violations in France.

In October 2010, the Spanish Agency for Data Protection also began proceedings against Google. German authorities have yet to announce what action, if any, they will take against the company.

Also last year, Google agreed to destroy such data under the supervision of the data protection authorities in Ireland and the United Kingdom, but faced no legal charges.

Google re-iterates apology

Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel
Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, apologized again

In a statement e-mailed to Deutsche Welle, Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel said his company has stopped the practice of automatically collecting the wireless Internet data and never intended to collect or use the data in the first place.

"As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted WiFi networks," he wrote.

"As soon as we realized what had happened, we grounded our Street View cars and immediately informed the Dutch authorities. We have never inspected the payload data, nor used it in any Google product or service. Our priority has always been to delete this data, and we have now done so with the DPA's permission."

Author: Cyrus Farivar

Editor: Sean Sinico