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U.S. Congressmen want more Google Street View information

A Google Street View camera fastened on top of a car in Amsterdam on March 19, 2009.


Three U.S. lawmakers want Google Inc. to tell them how much personal data the Internet search engine and advertising company gathered as part of its project to photograph streets across the country and how it plans to use that information.

The lawmakers also want to know if they told people they were collecting data as part of the Street View project.

"According to one report, Google gathered more than 600 gigabytes of data from Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries," said the letter to Eric Schmidt, which was signed by California Republican Rep. Joe Barton, California Democrat Henry Waxman and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey.

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"Presumably this data could include personal e-mails, health and financial information," they wrote in the letter, which was dated May 26.

The congressmen cited a Google blog post from earlier this month that said the company had mistakenly collected data from Wi-Fi Internet networks that were not protected by passwords while it was working on Street View.

"We are concerned that Google did not disclose until long after the fact that consumers' Internet use was being recorded, analyzed and perhaps profiled," the lawmakers wrote. "We are concerned about the completeness and accuracy of Google's public explanations about this matter."

Google has sent fleets of cars around the world for several years to take panoramic pictures of streets. People using Google's online atlas for locations and directions in many cases also can look at photographs collected by the Street View project and classified by address.

Collecting the Wi-Fi data was unrelated to the maps project, and was done instead so that Google could collect data on Wi-Fi hotspots for separate location-based services.

Barton and Markey, who co-chair the House Privacy Caucus, had previously asked the Federal Trade Commission if Google broke the law in collecting Wi-Fi and other Internet data while taking photographs for its Street View product.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has said that his agency would look at the breach, but did not say whether there is a formal investigation.

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A Google spokeswoman was not immediately available for a comment.

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