Posted July 22, 2010 9:17 am by with 9 comments

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Google has pushed the boundaries on just about everything they have done. As of late, their Street View escapades have created some serious ill will on most continents. While it seems that some of the trouble has cooled off a bit ( but not completely by any means) outside of the US it may just be heating up stateside.

According to the Wall Street Journal

The attorney general of Connecticut said 37 states have joined his investigation of Google Inc. and that he continues to seek information about whether privacy laws were broken when Google’s Street View vehicles collected personal data of unsuspecting Internet users.

In a letter dated Wednesday sent to Google, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal seeks specific details about the collection of data, including whether Google sold or used any of the information it collected. He threatened legal recourse if he doesn’t get the answers he wants, requesting the response by Friday.

What better way for a s state’s Attorney General to make a national name for himself than leading the charge against Google. Google is the rare company that is loved and hated in equal amounts. People who use it for search and other business services rarely complain because what you can get for free from Google is A) free and B) usually very good quality. People who don’t like it as much think that Google is a corporate bully that throws its weight around without much push back. I think that both sides have merit but I tend to fall on the side of being a fan rather than a detractor.

In this case, though, Google is drawing the ire of a public official in an election year (Blumenthal is running for the Connecticut senate seat recently vacated by Christopher Dodd’s retirement). That’s a perfect storm in this kind of situation because any traction gained against corporate America could be impressive to certain types of voters.

Blumenthal is questioning just how Google ‘allowed’ this to happen since this potential issue should have been revealed during testing of the data collection process.

Mr. Blumenthal, updating an investigation that began last month, said if Google had been testing the data it should have foreseen the trouble.

“Google’s responses continue to generate more questions than they answer,” he said in a statement. “We will take all appropriate steps—including potential legal action if warranted—to obtain complete, comprehensive answers.”

Google is trying its best to say that this was a mistake and placing the blame on a piece of experimental software used in the process of gathering their street view information.

Overall, this is something that could turn into a rather large distraction for Google as it works toward growing its business in areas outside of search ads. Having pending cases around the world and a heated up interest in the US regarding this activity by the company could very well hurt them to some degree.

To what degree may be determined by just how hard Mr. Blumenthal thinks he has to push in order to get elected in November. Ain’t America great?!

  • There have been guidelines for photos taken in public for decades – as any news outlet (and its attorneys) can attest to. If the photographer is in a public place and the subject is visible without the use of high-powered lens or other intrusive equipment, it’s a fair-use photo. And news outlets have filed photos, sold photos (in the case of a local outlet selling a photo to AP or other aggregator) and used (and re-used) them. Why would the rules change for Google? I’m not defending Google, I’m just saying that there is no issue here – and an Attorney General should know that.

    • @Juliette – Pictures aren’t the issue for this probe. It’s the gathering of information about and from open wifi connections at the various homes and businesses that Street View has ‘mistakenly’ taken in. Open wifi connections are a no-no to begin but because they exist the concern is that Google had access to private information.

      It’s a slippery slope indeed because privacy is a big deal these days as it should be and Google’s CEO has made statements in the past that make the company appear to be less concerned about privacy than they should be.

      All in all, I think this is still very opportunistic considering the elections around the corner and not knowing the real degree to which this whole thing has occurred.

      Thanks for checking in.

      • Phil Hagen

        Agree with Juliette, although on different grounds.

        This is a non-issue. If you use a public or otherwise non-secured wifi access point, you have zero expectation to privacy. Period. If someone “didn’t know” that their data was going across the airwaves without any kind of protection, they shouldn’t be using the technology. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but seeing politicians (and other ill-informed media-hungry personalities) seize a big fat nothing like this in bids to make themselves look like they’re championing the rights of the ignorant is just plain distasteful.

        Google has done wrong (arguably big wrongs, as in the whole China capitulation), but they did no wrong in this case, and there is no way to use technical or legal merits in an argument to the contrary.

  • Nice article thanks for the contribution.

  • Dan

    You say on one side people think that Google is a bully and the other since it’s free and good quality the other side are fans. I think part of the problem with Google is companies and blogs like yourself are so dependent on Google for advertising both paid and organic no one has the balls to talk badly about Google. Everyone is afraid to get on Google’s bad side. Google is a bully… I’d hate to live in a world where Google’s socially inept engineers run the show.

    • @Dan I think if you read more of the content here at Marketing Pilgrim you would see that we do not go easy on Google. No one should. In the same breath is just throwing everything out that they do because you think they are a bully good policy as well? Do they really do NO good? Extremes are usually not the answer in most cases because reality usually falls somewhere between black and white.

  • I think that Google be making mistakes on purpose just to get people’s attention

  • In Japan too, Google is facing privacy violation issues, following when the service was expanded to 12 major cities in Japan in August. It is our duty to warn society that an IT giant is openly violating privacy rights, which are important rights that the citizens have, through this service.

  • I think that this is going to cause a few problems for Google because of the power it has. They may have the CIA all over them looking for ways they could be leaking information to other countries about the USA and maybe not even knowing that they are doing it. This should be taken very serious.