Google says it doesn’t believe it broke US law by collecting data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks – action it claims was a mistake – but has declined to say whether it believes it broke laws in other countries, including Australia.
Google made its latest claims in a letter to three US congressmen who have been urging the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate the matter.
The company’s director of public policy, Pablo Chavez, wrote that the search company doesn’t believe collecting information from openly accessible networks is illegal in the US. “We emphasise that being lawful and being the right thing to do are two different things, and that collecting payload data was a mistake for which we are profoundly sorry,” Chavez said.
Chavez wrote that as far as Google knows, the data were only viewed twice: once by the engineer who designed the software and once by an engineer who tested the system.
Responding to the congressmen’s questions, he said Google wasn’t yet able to determine how many networks it collected Wi-Fi data from, nor how many consumers were affected. He said that at the request of authorities, Google had now deleted data from Ireland, Denmark and Austria.
In a statement accompanying the letter, Texas Republican congressman Joe Barton called Google’s behaviour “deeply troubling” and said it warranted a hearing. The Federal Trade Commission has said it is making inquiries into the matter.