Google (NSDQ: GOOG) says that contrary to its prior statements it has in fact been collecting private information sent over Wi-Fi networks, while collecting data for its various location-based products. The company says in a just-posted blog post that in the process of collecting general Wi-Fi data, like the numbers of Wi-Fi routers, its Street View cars were also “mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non password-protected) Wi-Fi networks.”
Google says it never used the information in any of its products and that it was only collecting “fragments” of data — but the admission is certain to raise eyebrows among privacy advocates and regulators. In fact, Google said it discovered the error while responding to a request by the EU, which had already said earlier this year that Street View was violating privacy laws.
The company says its Street View cars will no longer collect any Wi-Fi data. It also says it has reached out to regulators to determine how to delete the private data it did collect. Expect more fall-out.