Since Google first admitted that its Street View cars had collected private WiFi data, the company’s been quick to delete the data when asked. But authorities in Germany and Hong Kong have asked Google to turn over the data, instead, and so far, Google has declined to cooperate.
In Germany, Google indicated that giving the data to a regulator would itself be against the law. According to Kevin J. O’Brien, a spokesperson said, "As granting access to payload data creates legal challenges in Germany which we need to review, we are continuing to discuss the appropriate legal and logistical process for making the data available. We hope, given more time, to be able to resolve this difficult issue."
As for the situation in Hong Kong, Google apparently hasn’t bothered to say anything at all. Privacy Commissioner Roderick B. Woo said the company let a Monday deadline pass without responding to his request.
Fines and a lot more negative publicity may be in Google’s future as a result. Many people were suspicious enough at Google’s claim that private WiFi data had been collected by accident; now, the company’s refusal to turn it over doesn’t seem likely to help its reputation.
It’s possible this situation will snowball, too, as other privacy regulators decide to see what all the fuss is about and ask to inspect the data collected in their countries.