A federal judge in Oregon has ordered Google to turn over the U.S.-based data it siphoned from unsecured Wi-Fi networks by Friday. While Google claims that the sniffing was merely a coding error, the search engine giant currently faces several class action lawsuits from around the country. On a global scale, it's believed that Google's privacy violations were intentional, and now evidence has surfaced to back up those claims.
Brooks Cooper, an Oregon attorney currently suing Google over the Street View dispute, said that "it is our belief that it is not an accident." He pointed to a 2008 Google patent application (pdf)--aka "776"--that describes "one or more of the methods" Google uses to collect information for Street View. The patent was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in January.
Part of the patent raising a red flag describes a method to increase the accuracy of location-based services. These services would provide advertisers or other parties the location of a mobile phone or other computing devices. User locations are determined by intercepting data and analyzing the timing of transmission.
Naturally Google is disputing the patent's part in the current litigation. A company spokesperson said that patent 776 is unrelated to the software code used to collect Wi-Fi information with Street View cars. A separate statement also indicated that Google files patent applications on a variety of ideas conceived by its engineers. "Some of them mature into real products or services, and some of them don't," the spokesperson said.
Accusations against Google began earlier this year in Germany, as the country grew suspicious that the search engine giant was collecting more than just street information. Google eventually admitted that it had collected packets of information sent over Wi-Fi networks for the past three years, however the company said it was a mistake, blaming a software error.