tp-google-cp-9051819

Google is under scrutiny by privacy watchdogs in several countries for its Street View photo-gathering practices.

Google Street View cars breached Canadian privacy laws by inappropriately collecting personal information through a "careless error," the federal privacy commissioner has found.

"Our investigation shows that Google did capture personal information — and, in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as complete e-mails. This incident was a serious violation of Canadians’ privacy rights," Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart stated Tuesday.

Information collected by Google's cars included complete email addresses, user names and passwords, names and residential telephone numbers and addresses, and health details, Stoddart said.

P.O.V.:

Do you password protect your Wi-Fi network? Take our survey.

The commissioner has given the company until Feb. 1 to delete all of the improperly gathered information, at which point her office will consider the issue resolved.

Google admitted in a blog posting in April it had gathered the information in a number of countries and said it had done so unintentionally. The company's cars inadvertently scanned and gathered information from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks that they drove by, Google said.

Google Canada again apologized for gathering the information and said it would continue co-operating with the commissioner's office.

"As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks. As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting all Wi-Fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities," a spokesperson said. 

"We have been working with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in its investigation and will continue to answer the commissioner’s questions and concerns."