German prosecutors yesterday launched a criminal investigation against Google over its collecting of private Wi-Fi data from unsecured wireless networks.
Google says the data was collected by "mistake" as cars travelled around collecting information for its Street View service.
The New York Times reports that the investigation will require Google to submit one of the hard drives used to store the 'stolen' data.
Wilhelm Möllers, the spokesperson for the German prosecutors, told The New York Times: “We are absolutely at an early stage. This isn’t something that will be wrapped up in two or three weeks. We have to analyse whether there is reason to file criminal charges.”
Under German law, the offence of illegal data-gathering carries a fine or a two-year jail sentence.
As yet, Google has not agreed to hand over any hard drives to German authorities for inspection, but has offered to destroy them.
The company has been given a deadline of 26 May to hand over the hard drive.