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Google Faces Spanish Lawsuit Over Street View Data Collection

Data protection officials in Spain have filed a lawsuit over Google’s collection of Wi-Fi data earlier this year as part of its Street View product.

The Spanish Agency for Data Protection says it has evidence of five violations of Spanish law involving Google’s collection of SSID and MAC addresses from unencrypted Wi-Fi routers. Two of the violations are categorized as serious and the other three as very serious; Google could face fines that range from $84,000 to $840,000 for each offense, if convicted. You can download the agency’s two-page announcement (84k PDF, Spanish).

A Google spokesperson has reiterated to PC World that the data collection was an accident and says Google is “profoundly sorry” for what happened. Google also told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that the “data was not used in any form or in any Google product and the company has never intended to use it in that way.”

This is the latest in a long string of Street View-related problems for Google. Some complaints, like this one, surround the collection of Wi-Fi data in April, 2010, in numerous countries. Other complaints and legal actions involve the general premise of Google Street View, and privacy concerns over the product. You can read more background in our Google: Street View article library.

Postscript: On a related note, Canada’s privacy commissioner has announced today that this same Wi-Fi data collection violated the country’s privacy laws. Here’s part of the government’s statement as reported by CBC News:

“Our investigation shows that Google did capture personal information — and, in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as complete e-mails. This incident was a serious violation of Canadians’ privacy rights,” Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart stated Tuesday.

But unlike in Spain, Canada is not going to court over the issue. Stoddart is giving Google until February 1, 2011, to delete all of the personal information it collected. Canada will consider the matter resolved if that deadline is met.

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