2010/08/21

Google photographing French streets again, minus Wi-Fi scans

PARIS, August 20, 2010 (AFP) - Google said Friday it had resumed photographing France with its Street View bikes and cars but without gathering fragments of personal data sent over unsecured Wi-Fi systems for which it is being probed.

The French data protection agency CNIL said in June it was examining private data collected for Street View, including emails and possibly banking details, to decide if the firm should face criminal charges or other sanctions.

CNIL swiftly slammed the resumption as premature, given that the authority had not yet completed its probe.

"While the CNIL's investigations are not yet completed, the resumption of Street View traffic seems premature," it said in a statement.

Street View lets users view panoramic street scenes on Google Maps and take a virtual "walk" through cities such as New York, Paris or Hong Kong.

The service, which began in France in 2008, first came in for criticism for threatening the privacy of people caught -- sometimes in embarrassing situations -- in the photos taken by cars cruising cities in over 30 countries.

But when it emerged that Google's cars and bikes had also been gathering fragments of personal data sent over unsecured Wi-Fi systems, legal action and official probes were quickly announced across the world.

"We recognise that serious mistakes were made in the collection of Wi-Fi payload data, and we have worked to quickly rectify them," Google's vice president of engineering Brian McClendon said in July.

Google has said it is cooperating with authorities in France and elsewhere and would delete data if legally obliged to.