Korea first to charge Google’s Street View

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Korea first to charge Google’s Street View


Police officers at the National Police Agency’s cyber-crime response center yesterday check computer devices that were used to allegedly illegally collect private information for Google’s Street View. [YONHAP]

The Korean police said yesterday they charged Google Inc. of collecting personal data from Wi-Fi networks for its mapping service in violation of the nation’s telecommunications law.

Google, the world’s largest Internet company, launched its Street View mapping service in Korea in October 2009, using cars to photograph streets and houses. The company has since come under suspicion that it collected personal data in the process.

The cyber-crime unit at Korea’s Nation Police Agency (NPA) raided the offices of Google Korea last August in an investigation and secured 440 hard drives. Ten company executives were also questioned.

Wrapping up its months-long probe, the NPA said it analyzed the hard drives and found evidence that the firm harvested and stored personal data, including personal e-mails, passwords, credit-card payment information and text messages that Internet users exchanged through wireless networks.

The police have built the case against Google’s head office in the U.S. based on the nation’s telecommunications laws, which make it illegal for a corporation to order its employees or representatives to carry out illegal activities.

However, the NPA issued a stay of proceedings against the person responsible at Google’s main headquarters because he or she has not yet been identified.

Under local laws, those who gather information on an individual’s communications or whereabouts without authorization can face up to 10 years in jail or fines of a maximum of 50 million won ($44,900).

The NPA will send the case to prosecutors by the end of this month to formally press charges, officials said.

“This is the largest case of damages incurred on defenselessly exposed wireless Internet users,” said Choi In-seok, an NPA official in charge of the case. “We confirmed the facts that not only computers and smartphones, but also wireless credit-card payment systems by mega supermarkets are vulnerable to data leakage.

“We will continue to seek out those who are responsible. But right now, we are having difficulty in conducting further investigation because the company is based in the U.S.”

Officials here said Korea is the first nation to charge the California-based company with violating communication laws over its mapping service. Google is under investigation in 16 countries for data collection.

Google apologized in an e-mailed statement, saying that the company “mistakenly” gathered data from unencrypted networks.

It said it immediately stopped collecting all Wi-Fi data and will cooperate with Korean authorities to delete them.

“While we have repeatedly acknowledged that this was a mistake, we believe Google did nothing illegal in Korea, and we are working with the relevant authorities to respond to their questions and concerns,” said Ross LaJeunesse, Google’s head of public policy and government affairs in Asia.


Related Korean Article [연합]
'60만명 개인정보 무단수집' 구글 美본사 입건
구글 수사 16國 중 입건은 한국경찰이 첫 사례
정통망법ㆍ위치정보법 위반 적용…신원미상 프로그래머 기소중지

경찰청 사이버테러대응센터는 '스트리트뷰(Street View)' 서비스 제작 과정에서 개인의 통신 정보를 무단으로 수집한 혐의로 다국적 IT기업 구글(Google Inc.)을 입건했다고 13일 밝혔다.

또 개인정보가 수집되도록 프로그램을 만든 신원미상의 구글 프로그래머(미국인 추정)를 기소중지했다.

스트리트뷰는 인터넷 지도를 통해 특정 위치의 영상정보를 제공하는 것으로, 미국과 독일, 호주, 캐나다 등 일부 국가에서는 이미 서비스되고 있다.

구글은 스트리트뷰를 제작하며 개인의 통신 정보를 무단 수집한 의혹으로 세계 16개국에서 수사 또는 조사를 받고 있는데 의혹을 사실로 확인해 구글 본사를 입건한 것은 한국이 처음이다.

경찰에 따르면 구글은 2009년 10월부터 지난해 5월까지 국내 용역업체를 동원해 3대의 특수카메라 장착 차량으로 서울과 부산, 인천, 경기 등 5만여㎞를 운행하면서 거리풍경 촬영뿐만 아니라 무선랜(Wi-Fi)망에 설치된 무선기기(AP) 시리얼 번호와 함께 개인간 통신 내용까지 수집해 저장한 혐의를 받고 있다. …

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