BERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors are investigating Google Inc. on suspicion of violating privacy laws by recording fragments of people's online activities through unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
Hamburg prosecutor Wilhelm Moellers told the news agency DAPD that his office launched the investigation after a complaint was filed against undisclosed Google employees over the incident last Friday.
"The tapping of data is believed to have taken place over unsecured Wi-Fi networks in connection with 'Street View'" activity, Moellers said. "We will above all have to clarify whether the offense was deliberate."
Google acknowledged the privacy breach in an apology issued last Friday, saying it had been inadvertently storing fragments of people's online activities over the past four years while expanding its mapping feature, "Street View."
The U.S. Internet giant has come under fire from authorities across Europe, where strict privacy laws regulate how much of citizens' personal details may be released or shared without consent. Suspicion that Google was showing too much in its attempts to provide detailed online maps has been aggravated by the breach, noticed by German authorities.
In London, Britain's Information Commissioner's Office joined Germany in calling for Google to destroy the data, although it said it was unlikely that anything more than fragments of data had been collected.
Google has been sending cars equipped with mounted cameras through European streets to take pictures that are then broadcast through the "Street View" map program.
The Czech Office for Personal Data Protection also said it is investigating Google for failing to meet necessary requirements needed to collect data used for "Street View."
Spokeswoman Hana Stepankova said Wednesday that her office had received a number of complaints from citizens about Google's activities.