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 email@example.com
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- Mobile Policy Checklist Here's what to consider when putting together a mobile policy designed to support a highly productive workforce.
- Securing BYOD Mobile computing is becoming so ubiquitous that people no longer bat an eye seeing someone working two devices simultaneously. Individuals and organizations are...
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Endpoint Backup & Restore: Protect Everyone, Everywhere Arek Sokol from the bleeding-edge IT team at Genentech/Roche explains how he leverages cross-platform enterprise endpoint backup in the public cloud as part...
- Streamline Software Asset Management, Compose a software Management Symphony Keeping track of your organization's software is easy with effective software management solutions from CDW. View the videos in our software solutions channel
- Druva inSync: Endpoint Data Protection & Governance CLICK HERE to watch this video about protecting corporate data on laptops and mobile devices, sponsored by Druva. All Security White Papers | Webcasts