Google Faces 38 States in Expanding Privacy Investigation

Google's Street Trike near Stonehenge, UK., with Street View cameras.
Google's Street Trike near Stonehenge, UK., with Street View cameras.

Google (GOOG) gained a clearer picture Wednesday of who's taking aim at its Street View data collection methods, as part of a privacy probe led by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who last month announced the launch of the multistate investigation into Google's collection of personal WiFi information by its controversial Street View vehicles as they cruised major cities worldwide.

Blumenthal says 38 states and the District of Columbia will be participating in the investigation, with Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Texas on the executive committee. Other states joining the coalition include New York, Mississippi, Vermont, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Kansas, Montana and Rhode Island.

Foreign Regulators Also Investigating

For Google, the multistate investigation comes as a number of regulatory agencies abroad take a look at its Street View data collection program, which turned out to be collecting far more information than Google realized, such as snippets of users' browsing activities and potentially random bits of passwords, email addresses and other confidential information. The Street View program was designed to just take pictures for use in the "Street View" feature on Google maps.

"Google's responses continue to generate more questions than they answer," Blumenthal said in a statement. "Our powerful multistate coalition -- 38 states so far -- is demanding that Google reveal whether it tested Street View software, which should have revealed that it was collecting payload data."

The coalition is asking Google to identify the specific people involved and responsible for the "snooping code" and explain how the search giant wasn't aware this code allowed the Street View vehicles, including the "Street Trike" above, to to collect data as it was broadcast over WiFi networks.

Meanwhile, Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group based in Santa Monica, Calif., chimed in with their support of the coalition Wednesday. The group also reiterated demands that the House Energy and Commerce Committee hold hearings on the "Google Wi-Spy scandal."

Google wasn't immediately available to comment.