In what could lead to a legal battle, Google has refused to turn over to the Connecticut attorney general data its street-mapping vehicles gathered from personal and business wireless networks throughout the state.
Google's notice, given this week to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, leaves the next move up to the state's top prosecutor, who says he is weighing his options. "I am disappointed by Google's failure to comply with my information demands," Blumenthal said in a statement emailed to InformationWeek Friday. We will review any information we receive and consider whether additional enforcement steps -- including possible legal action -- are warranted."
Google is no stranger to battling government officials over the information it claims to have mistakenly harvested in 2008 over unprotected Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries. The disclosure prompted multiple lawsuits, Congressional scrutiny in the U.S. and multiple investigations in Europe. Some countries have asked Google to delete the data, while others have asked the company to retain it to facilitate investigations.
Google has apologized for the snafu, pointing out that it stopped collecting the information as soon as authorities notified it. The company says it has never used the data in its products and services and will delete the information related to each region once it is given the green light from government officials.
Google has not said why it won't hand over the data to Blumenthal who says he needs it to clear up inconsistencies in Google's descriptions of the information collected. Initially, Google said the Street View cars gathered fragments of information. The company later acknowledged that entire emails and other information might have been captured.
Blumenthal announced in June that his office would lead a multi-state investigation into Google's data-collection activities, which he called a "deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy." Other states have yet to announce their participation in the investigation.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission in October closed its inquiry, saying it was satisfied with changes it had made to prevent future data collection and with the company's promise to delete improperly gathered information as soon as possible.