Google Raided In Korea For ‘WiSpy’ Data

Google’s headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, has been raided by police looking for data gathered from unsecured Wi-Fi networks

Google’s South Korean headquarters has been raided by police looking for evidence of illegally stored data – just when the storm over the company’s collection of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks seemed to have died down.

According to reports in the Korean press, 19 agents of the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) raided the office, seizing hard drives and related documents, looking for data the Google’ cars may have gathered from unsecured Wi-Fi networks, while taking photos for the Google’s Street View mapping application.

Authorities say they plan to summon Google officials for investigation once the confiscated items have been examined.

“We will investigate Google Korea officials and scrutinise the data we confiscated today,” said KNPA in a statement. “We intend to find out what kinds of data they have collected and how much. We will try to retrieve all the original data illegally collected and stored through domestic Wi-Fi networks from the Google headquarters.”

WiSpy scandal

Google Street View Car
Google Street View Car

South Korea has moved against Google just as the furore over Google’s “WiSpy” saga seems to be dying down in the rest of the world. Google admitted in May that it had accidentally collected more than 600GB of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks while photographing streets around the world for its Street View application. The incident caused outrage from governments and privacy advocates, and Google was forced to remove its cars from the streets.

When Google realised there was a problem it separated the data and disconnected it from the network. The company has since agreed to surrender the data to authorities, and Google is subject to ongoing investigations by Scotland Yard, the US Federal Trade Commission and European regulators.

Last month the Information Commissioner’s Office visited Google’s premises to assess samples of the data. The ICO was only granted access to samples of the records collected in the UK, but of those it examined, there was nothing that could be linked to an identifiable person.

“On the basis of the samples we saw we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data,” it said. “There is also no evidence as yet that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment.”

Back on the roads

Last week, Google Street View cars returned to UK roads, minus their Wi-Fi antennas. In the coming weeks, the cars will travel across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, as well as the Isle of Wight. Street View cars are also back in action in Ireland, Norway, South Africa and Sweden.

“The Wi-Fi data collection equipment has been removed from our cars in each country and the independent security experts Stroz Friedberg have approved a protocol to ensure any Wi-Fi-related software is also removed from the cars before they start driving again,” said Google Geo vice president of engineering Brian McClendon. “We recognise that serious mistakes were made in the collection of Wi-Fi payload data, and we have worked to quickly rectify them.”

Google has struggled in its attempts to penetrate the South Korea’s Internet market, which is dominated by a couple of domestic search engines. According to The New York Times, one of this search engines, Daum, already runs a popular service akin to Street View.