Canada probes Google on wireless data collection

A construction worker walks past a logo next to the main entrance of the Google building in Zurich May 25, 2010. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

BOSTON (Reuters) - Canada has launched a probe into Google Inc as legal problems escalate surrounding the search engine’s disclosure that it collected private data while taking photographs for its Street View product.

Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said on Tuesday that she was concerned about the privacy implications stemming from the collection of data from wireless networks in Canada, the United States and other countries.

“We have a number of questions about how this collection could have happened,” she said in a statement. “We’ve determined that an investigation is the best way to find the answers.”

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has already begun an informal inquiry into the matter.

Google said in a statement that it would cooperate with authorities to answer their questions and address their concerns. It has previously denied any wrongdoing.

The Internet giant has sent fleets of cars around the world for several years to take panoramic pictures that it uses in its online atlas.

Google first revealed that cars were also collecting wireless data in April, but said that no personal information from Wi-Fi networks was involved. But after an audit requested by Germany, Google acknowledged in May it mistakenly had collected samples of “payload data.”

Suits have been filed in Washington D.C., California, Massachusetts and Oregon by people who accuse Google of violating their privacy by collecting data from open Wi-Fi networks.

U.S. lawmakers have asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to look into the matter, and a district court in Portland, Oregon, has ordered Google to make two copies of a hard drive containing data from the United States and turn them over to the court.

Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Frank McGurty and Matthew Lewis