Canada Pursues Google for Privacy Breach

"Accidental error" led search engine's street cameras to collect personal data.

TORONTO -- One Big Brother to another Big Brother: the Canadian government has fingered Google’s Street View cars for mapping more than home addresses.

Canadian privacy czar Jennifer Stoddart said an “accidental error” led Google’s drive-by street cameras to collect personal data and breach Canadian laws.

"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," Stoddart said Tuesday.

Google’s Street View cars unwittingly scanned and collected information from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks that they drove past, the U.S. Internet giant conceded as it works with Canada’s privacy commissioner to fix the problem.

“We are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks," Google said in a statement.

"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,” the company added.

The Canadian government said the Google dragnet inadvertently collected whole email addresses, user names and passwords, phone numbers and home addresses, and health care data.

Google has until Feb. 1 to delete the private data to close the books with Canada’s privacy commissioner.