* Atty gen asks if data collected from private networks
* Calls sweeps ‘pernicious invasion of privacy’
* Google says will continue to cooperate with authorities (Adds Google response, paragraphs 5-6)
By Scott Malone
BOSTON, June 7 (Reuters) - Connecticut’s top prosecutor called on Google Inc (GOOG.O) on Monday to say whether it had collected data from personal and business wireless networks without the owners’ permission.
In a letter to a lawyer for Mountain View, California-based Google, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal demanded detailed records on any information taken from networks in the state and how it was used.
The most-used U.S. search engine last month acknowledged that the fleet of cars it uses to take photos of streets around the world for a three-dimensional mapping service had for several years been collecting information from open Wi-Fi networks that could include e-mail messages and passwords.
“Drive-by data sweeps of unsecured Wi-Fi networks here would be deeply disturbing, a potentially impermissible, pernicious invasion of privacy,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “My office can evaluate whether laws were broken.”
Google said it would cooperate with authorities.
“We’re continuing to work with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns,” said spokeswoman Christine Chen, in an e-mailed statement.
In May the company said the collections had been accidental. The company had intended to collect information on Wi-Fi hotspots for other location-based services. [ID:nN14203313]
The state of Missouri began a similar inquiry on Friday.
Australia’s attorney general on Sunday asked that country’s police to investigate whether Google had broken telecommunications privacy laws by collecting the Wi-Fi data.
Google’s fleet of camera-equipped vehicles have traveled the roads of more than 30 countries since 2006, collecting photos for the company’s Street View mapping service. They have also been lightning rods for controversy, with privacy advocates contending that some of its cameras shot over fences into private homes.
Google said on Sunday it would cooperate with the Australia police investigation.
Blumenthal, a 64-year-old Democrat, is running for the U.S. Senate, seeking to fill the seat to be vacated by the retiring Christopher Dodd. (Reporting by Scott Malone, editing by Maureen Bavdek and Derek Caney)