Google Probed By Belgian Authorities Over Privacy Lapses

Google Inc. (GOOG) is being probed by Belgian prosecutors over possible privacy breaches concerning wireless Internet data collected by its Street View service.

The country’s federal prosecutors “have opened a file” and will investigate whether Google broke rules when it collected private data, Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the authority, said in a phone interview. De Morgen reported the probe earlier today.

Google has been targeted by data-protection agencies across the European Union for its Street View program, which lets users click on maps to see photographs of roadsides. It was fined 100,000 euros ($146,100) in France for violating the country’s privacy rules. Dutch watchdogs on April 19 gave the company three months to inform users about the data collected via WiFi by its Street View cars.

The owner of the world’s biggest search engine mistakenly collected data from unencrypted networks and had never inspected it or used it, Anoek Eckhardt, a Google spokeswoman in Amsterdam, said in an e-mail.

“We are working with the authorities in Belgium and continue to answer any questions and concerns they might have,” Eckhardt said.

Belgian data protection regulators concluded earlier this year that Google had committed “flagrant violations of privacy law” by collecting and storing wireless Internet addresses and traffic between computers and WiFi hotspots, said Emmanuel Vincart, a spokesman for Belgium’s Privacy Commission, in a telephone interview today.

Vincart said Belgian privacy regulators don’t have the power to fine the Mountain View, California-based company and passed the case to the federal prosecutors in January.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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