Google Street View snooped on South Koreans

South Korean police have finally realised what the rest of us have known for yonks – Google's Street View cars were snaffling up e-mails and other personal information from private Wi-fi networks as they trundled around the globe snapping anything they could point their cameras at.

The remaining question is whether they'll do anything about it.

Investigator Jung Suk-hwa of South Korea's Cyber Terror Response Center told the Korea Times: "We unlocked 79 computer hard disks seized from Google Korea last summer and discovered e-mails, instant messages and other private data sent over Wi-Fi networks. We are now working on an additional 145 hard drives, which were handed over to us later. These disks had previously been taken out of the country."

Google said it collected the information by accident, claimed it was fragmentary and said it didn't intend to do anything with it anyhow.

We've trotted out our own sceptical analysis of this explanation too many times to rattle through it again here.

Jung said Google had Hoovered up the data in four cities in South Korea between October 2009 and May 2010.

Investgators say they think the snooping breaks the country's telecommunications privacy laws, but it remains to be seen if they'll do anything about it.

In the UK, the Information Commissioners Office cosied up to Google, rather than punish it for its offence. A similar thing has happened around the globe as foreign corporations that make money are evidently treated more leniently than the indigenous citizens who are fleeced by them.

Google issued a statement in Korea, flannelling: "We have been cooperating with the Korean Communications Commission and the police, and will continue to do so. Our ultimate objective remains to delete the data consistent with our legal obligations and in consultation with the appropriate authorities."