Google to resume gathering map data in 4 countries

A company logo is placed on the roof of the Google building in Zurich May 25, 2010. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

BANGALORE (Reuters) - Google Inc, which is at the heart of a controversy over its data collection methods, has decided to resume gathering images in four countries for its Street View mapping service.

After conversations with regulators, the Internet search company will start driving its cars in Ireland, Norway, South Africa and Sweden from next week, it said on its European Public Policy blog.

The cars will no longer collect wi-fi information, but will continue to collect photos and 3D imagery.

Google plans to add more countries in time, it said.

In May, Google said the fleet of cars it used to take photos of streets around the world for a three-dimensional mapping service had collected personal information sent by consumers over wireless networks. The information could include email messages and passwords.

After the discovery of the error, Google had stopped collecting wi-fi data and grounded its cars globally.

The revelation led several countries around the world to launch probes on the company’s data collection methods. Consumers and regulators are increasingly showing concern over the manner in which websites handle personal information.

Google’s Street View cars are well known for crisscrossing the globe and taking panoramic pictures of city streets, which the company displays in its online Maps product.

Google shares closed at $456.56 Thursday on Nasdaq.

Reporting by S. John Tilak in Bangalore; editing by Simon Jessop