Government hearings in the UK and data privacy rulings in Italy put Google in the spotlight over a Street View data snooping. One British MP said London needs to do more to protect people's privacy.
It's been a busy week for Google lawyers in Europe, as the California tech giant became the target of the legal wrath of Italy and the United Kingdom.
Prosecutors in Rome on Wednesday began an investigation against Google for potential invasions of privacy in its Street View online mapping service.
Italian authorities, like their counterparts in Germany, Spain, Canada and elsewhere, are concerned that Google acquired personal data including e-mails and passwords while "packet sniffing" on open WiFi networks while photographing for the Street View service.
Google has previously said that the data acquisition was accidental, and that it has taken measures to ensure that this kind of breach does not happen again.
This legal move came as the Italian Data Protection Authority also announced more restrictions this week against Google.
"Italian citizens will be informed of the presence of Google Cars taking pictures of places and individuals to be posted online via the Street View service," the Italian privacy authority said in a statement on its website on Monday.
The authority added that Google Street View vehicles will have to be obvious to passers-by.
"Google cars will have to be clearly marked by means of visible stickers or signs to unambiguously signify that pictures are being taken for the purposes of Street View," it said in the statement.
Other conditions set by the Italian authorities included requiring Google list what neighborhoods its cars would photograph in local media ahead of time. The Italian DPA added that failure to comply with the new rules would carry a fine of up to 1,800 euros ($2,500).
UK privacy investigation has been 'lily-livered'
Thursday, in London, a parliamentary committee met to find out why the British government has not done more to investigate privacy concerns over the leaked WiFi data situation.
Earlier this year, the British data protection authority, the Information Commissioner's Office, had said it had found no wrongdoing on Google's part, but on Monday the office re-opened the case after Google's admitted acquiring more data than had been previously disclosed.
"The UK information commissioner has been lily-livered," Robert Halfon, a conservative parliamentarian, said during the committee hearing.
"These corporations need to be taught that advancing the technological wonder that is the Internet is one thing," he added. "Trampling over the individual's right to privacy is quite another."
American authorities at the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday announced that they dropped their inquiry into Google's potential privacy violation.
Author: Cyrus Farivar (AFP, AP)
Editor: Sean Sinico
The world's biggest high-tech fair has opened in the German city of Hanover. The CeBIT event follows revelations of vast spying by British and US intelligence agencies, which sparked a global debate about data security.
Qwant, a search engine promising users more privacy and "something different," has been launched in Germany. But whether the service will experience a high uptake among users remains to be seen.
Japanese media say the nation's fisheries agency has decided to boost protection for juvenile bluefin tuna by halving Japan's northern Pacific catch. Studies show a dramatic decline in tuna prized by eaters of sushi.
A massive global decline in bee populations has given beekeepers and scientists cause for concern. A scientist from Hamburg says that the introduction of tiny book scorpions could keep bee populations alive.