So, what did the private WiFi data that Google disclosed last month it had been mistakenly collecting consist of? French data protection officials say there was “data that are normally covered by … banking and medical privacy rules” — and “passwords for e-mail services and chunks of text from messages” (via BBC). Google (NSDQ: GOOG) had described the data as “payload data (information sent over the network)” — a term that certainly could have included e-mail passwords and messages — but unsurprisingly hadn’t provided any specifics.
Google, which collected the private information while gathering data for its location-based products, such as StreetView, has consistently said it only collected “fragments” of the payload data and never used it in any of its products. That, however, hasn’t stopped several lawsuits and investigations by countries, including France. In the U.S., attorneys general have also talked about some some sort of joint response and are now starting an investigation. Expect all of those efforts to accelerate as more specific details about what Google collected come out.