Google Quizzed by Blumenthal on Street View Testing Before Data-Gathering

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he asked Google Inc. whether it tested its Street View software before using it, which he said should have revealed the unauthorized collection of personal data from wireless computer networks.

Blumenthal said he sent a letter today to Google senior counsel Stacey Wexler asking for a response by July 23.

The Connecticut official last month demanded information on what Google called the inadvertent gathering of data from wireless networks, including e-mail and passwords, as it took pictures of streets and houses for its Street View service.

“If Google tested this software, it should have known all along that Street View cars would snare and collect confidential data from homes across America,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Now the question is how it may have used -- and secured -- all this private information.”

Blumenthal, who’s leading a multistate investigation, said that his coalition now comprises 37 states. They include New York, Mississippi, Vermont, Nebraska, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Kansas, Montana and Rhode Island.

Christine Chen, a spokeswoman for Mountain View, California-based Google, said in a statement that the company erred but didn’t break the law.

“As we’ve said before, it was a mistake for us to include code in our software that collected payload data, but we believe we did nothing illegal,” Chen said in an e-mail. “We’re continuing to work with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns.”

Investigation’s Scope

Blumenthal said last month that the investigation “will consider whether laws may have been broken and whether changes to state and federal statutes may be necessary.”

The states asked who was responsible for the code that collected the unauthorized data and why Google was unaware of what it was collecting, Blumenthal said. They also want to know the places where unauthorized data-collection occurred.

California hasn’t joined the multistate investigation, Christine Gasparac, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Jerry Brown, said in a phone interview.

“We have been talking directly with Google about this issue and as of now have not joined the multistate investigation,” she said. Gasparac declined to comment further.

Google Street View provides views of streets in almost a dozen countries around the world and can be found within Google Maps. Street View uses images captured by specially equipped vehicles.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Freifeld in New York at kfreifeld@bloomberg.net.

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