* District Court in Oregon orders copies of data
* At least four lawsuits filed
WASHINGTON, May 27 (Reuters) - A U.S. court has ordered Google (GOOG.O) to turn over two copies of wireless data scooped up by the company’s Street View cars as they photographed neighborhoods, part of an escalating legal and public relations problem for the search engine giant.
Suits have been filed in Washington D.C., California, Massachusetts and Oregon by people who accuse Google of violating their privacy because the cars also collected data from open Wi-Fi networks.
A U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, on Monday ordered Google to make two copies of a hard drive containing data from the United States and turn them over to the court.
Google declined to comment on the lawsuits. It opted last week to retain the data while different jurisdictions figure out what they want done with it.
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 can often look at photographs collected by the Street View project and classified by address.
Google 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 from Wi-Fi networks was involved. But after an audit requested by Germany, Google acknowledged it had been mistakenly collecting samples of “payload data.”
A lawsuit filed on Wednesday by Washington D.C. resident Jeffrey Colman charged that “Google was surreptitiously collecting private information, which, on information and belief, included e-mails, video, audio and other payload data belonging to users and operators of home-based Wi-Fi Networks.”
Three U.S. lawmakers, concerned Google may have violated U.S. privacy laws, asked the company on Wednesday to tell them how much personal data was gathered.
California Republican Representative Joe Barton, California Democrat Henry Waxman and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey said in a letter to Google’s Chief Executive Eric Schmidt that they also wanted to know how Google planned to use that information.
The Federal Trade Commission has an informal probe underway, its Chairman Jon Leibowitz has told lawmakers. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)