Google will not be prosecuted for Street View Wi-Fi sniffing in Germany
Scanning Wi-Fi networks in Germany is not a criminal offense, a prosecutor concluded
IDG News Service - The public prosecutor in Hamburg has decided not to start a criminal investigation into the way Googles' Street View cars gathered data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks in Germany, the lawyer who requested the inquiry said Thursday.
In 2010 Google acknowledged that its Street View cars collected data such as MAC addresses and SSIDs (service set identifiers) as well as personal payload data from Wi-Fi networks. Payload data can include email, passwords and medical data.
This prompted German lawyer Jens Ferner to request the public prosecutor in Hamburg to start a formal criminal investigation into the matter.
Two years and nine months later, Ferner received a reply to his request. The public prosecutor's office said it cannot pursue a criminal investigation into Google's Street View Wi-Fi sniffing. The prosecutor's office was unable to find any violation of criminal standards by Google in the way the company stores SSIDs, MAC addresses or payload data, it said in a letter sent to Ferner on Thursday.
Intercepting MAC addresses and SSIDs is not illegal because the information is not protected by German telecom law, the prosecutor said. The data does not have the same status as messages sent over the airwaves, according to the prosecutor.
While the payload information collected by Google does contain messages, the prosecutor was also unable to prosecute Google for the way it collected that information.
German criminal law protects data gathered without permission, said Ferner in an email. "It would be punishable by law if someone intercepts the data with intention," he said. But Google argued it did not realize it was gathering the payload data. Thus the data was collected without intention, and Google can go unpunished, Ferner said. MAC addresses and SSIDs are not seen as personal data by the prosecutor, he added.
Though the decision of a prosecutor is not a ruling by a court, Ferner noted that he thought this was an important decision nonetheless. The decision implies that simply scanning for networks is not a criminal offense in Germany, Ferner said.
Google did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but announced shortly after the Wi-Fi sniffing was discovered in 2010 that it had stopped collecting Wi-Fi data entirely.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
- 18 Hot IT Certifications for 2014
- CIOs Opting for IT Contractors Over Hiring Full-Time Staff
- 12 Best Free iOS 7 Holiday Shopping Apps
- For CMOs Big Data Can Lead to Big Profits
- Slideshow: 5 ways to lock down your mobile device
- Slideshow: 10 mistakes companies make after a data breach
- How to rob a bank: A social engineering walk through
- Which smartphone is the most secure?
If you think getting it right from day one is always what matters, you probably haven't been following technology too closely.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Mitigating DDoS Attacks with F5 Technology
- This document examines various DDoS attack methods and the application of specific ADC technologies to block attacks in the DDoS threat spectrum while...
- The DDoS Threat Spectrum
- Bolstered by favorable economics, today's global botnets are using distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks to target firewalls, web services, and applications, often simultaneously.
- Defending Against Denial of Service Attacks
- By utilizing end-user interviews, this whitepaper explores a deeper understanding of DDoS defense plans and reveals the knowledge gaps around the Denial of...
- Strategic Solutions for Government IT
- This paper outlines why F5 is the optimum partner to help achieve the levels of security, performance and availability that are vital to...
Top Considerations for Moving to a Cloud Delivery Model for ITSM
Find out whether SaaS-based ITSM is right for you
- Software-as-a-service is more than just a cloud-based delivery model-it's a new approach to service that lets companies optimize utilization of in-house IT resources... All Government IT White Papers
- Fighting Fraud Videos: IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager Short videos about IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager (IIM) for Fraud. IIM optimizes the investigation of fraud for customers across many industries in both...
- IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager: Online Product Demo Intelligent Investigation Manager optimizes fraud investigation and analysis and it dynamically coordinates and reports on cases, provides analysis and visualization, and enables more...
- Webinar: IBM IIM for Fraud, Abuse and Waste in Government View this IBM webinar to learn about the challenges and opportunities in fraud reduction, waste, and abuse in government programs and agencies. You...
- Pre-Engineered solutions from VCE Simplify Core Infrastructure Implementation In this video, the CTO of Purdue Pharma, a privately held pharmaceutical company explains how Purdue transformed their data center infrastructure with VCE.
- Integrated Infrastructure: Simplify Operations, Speed Deployments and Reduce Costs George Weiss, Gartner Vice President and Analyst, and Praveen Akkiraju, CEO of VCE, provide practical information regarding the various aspects of Integrated Infrastructures...
- All Government IT Webcasts
Does your organization offer extensive benefits, cool perks, competitive salaries, opportunities for training and advancement? Then get it recognized!
Nominate your company or another deserving organization for Computerworld's 2014 Best Places to Work in IT list now through Dec. 12, 2013.