* "Significant" number of states expected to join
* Probe to figure out if laws were broken
* Google shares close down 2.29 pct
(Adds Illinois, Michigan among concerned states; updates share
WASHINGTON, June 21 Connecticut's attorney
general will lead a multi-state probe of whether Google Inc
(GOOG.O) broke the law when it siphoned personal data off
wireless networks around the world, which the Internet search
leader has said was inadvertent.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said on Monday more
than 30 states participated in a recent conference call on the
issue. He said consumers have a right to know what information
was collected, and whether U.S. states need to alter procedures
to guard against such leaks in future.
Google's shares slid 2.29 percent to close at $488.56 on
In May, Google said its cars photographing streets around
the world have for years accidentally collected personal data
-- which a security expert said at the time could have included
email messages and passwords -- sent by consumers over wireless
"My office will lead a multi-state investigation --
expected to involve a significant number of states -- into
Google's deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy,"
Blumenthal said in a statement.
"Consumers have a right and a need to know what personal
information -- which could include emails, Web browsing and
passwords -- Google may have collected, how and why."
Blumenthal said Google has cooperated but "its response so
far raises as many questions as it answers."
"Our investigation will consider whether laws may have been
broken and whether changes to state and federal statutes may be
necessary," he said.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said last week that
she had opened an investigation into whether Google collected
personal information about Illinois residents. Michigan
Attorney General Mike Cox requested information from Google
last week about the interceptions.
News of the Blumenthal-led probe marked the latest
development in a privacy controversy surrounding Google. The
company already faces an informal investigation over the matter
by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a variety of probes
overseas, and class action lawsuits.
Google has said the data were accidentally collected by
"Street View" cars, well known for crisscrossing the globe and
taking panoramic pictures of city streets, which the company
displays in its online maps product.
"It was a mistake for us to include code in our software
that collected payload data, but we believe we did nothing
illegal. We're working with the relevant authorities to answer
their questions and concerns," Google spokeswoman Christine
Chen said in an email.
The company says it uses the location of Wi-Fi networks to
enhance location-based services on smartphones.
It first revealed that Street View cars were collecting
wireless data in April, but said that no personal data were
involved. But after an audit requested by Germany, Google
acknowledged in May that it had been mistakenly collecting
samples of "payload data."
Blumenthal also released a letter sent to Google in
mid-June asking for more details of the data collection. He had
written to Google previously and the giant Internet search and
advertising company had responded.
In the second letter, Blumenthal asked the company when it
realized that its Street View cars had collected "payload
data," who audited or analyzed the Street View data collection
program, and whether information was ever extracted from the
He also asked what precautions Google takes to ensure that
its engineers do not insert code into Google products, and
which engineer or engineers inserted the payload data code into
the Street View cars' collection devices.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn, Gerald E.
McCormick and Bernard Orr)