Seoul, Korea: South Korean prosecutors claimed that they identified a person believed to be responsible for the development of the controversial privacy-infringing Street View mapping feature of Google Inc. and notified the person to appear before them.
The Seoul prosecution has been looking into suspicions that Google gathered and stored privacy information of at least 600,000 individuals in South Korea while collecting images for the panoramic Street View service from October 2009 to May last year. But the investigation has stalled due mainly to ambiguity in identifying who is to be blamed for the development of the privacy-breaching function.
“After tracking various Internet sources, including documents from an expert research institute, we found the person known to be the programme developer and notified the person early this week to appear before the prosecution,” said an official of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, which is investigating the case.
The message was delivered to the developer through Google’s US headquarters and the firm’s attorney, but Google has given no response, according to the prosecutors. Whether the person is actually responsible for the technology or not can be determined only after the interrogation, prosecutors noted. If so, the stagnant investigation may pick up speed.
An earlier police probe found that Google’s fleet of camera-equipped vehicles not only shot the 360-degree images of streets in Seoul, Busan, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province but also collected serial numbers of wireless devices on Wi-Fi networks as well as mobile text messages exchanged between the networks’ users. Also gathered were users’ e-mails, passwords and credit card payment histories, police said.
Police interrogated about 10 local Google officials last year before the case was sent to the prosecution for legal action. Google confirmed the data collection officially but denied any wrongdoing under the local communication or privacy protection laws. More than a dozen countries accused the US company of similar charges after South Korea first raised the accusations last year.