(cross-posted from the Google European Public Policy Blog)

In May we announced that we had mistakenly included code in our software in Street View cars that collected WiFi payload data. As soon as we discovered our error, we not only stopped collecting WiFi data entirely, but also grounded our fleet of cars globally to give us time to remove the WiFi scanning equipment and discuss what had happened with local regulators.

The WiFi 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 WiFi-related software is also
removed from the cars before they start driving again. *

Having spoken to the relevant regulators we have decided to start
Street View driving in Ireland, Norway, South Africa and Sweden again
starting next week. We expect to add more countries in time. Our cars
will no longer collect any WiFi information at all, but will continue
to collect photos and 3D imagery as they did before:

  • Photos: so that we can build Street View, our 360 degree street level maps. Photos like these are also being taken by TeleAtlas and NavTeq for Bing maps. In addition, we use this imagery to improve the quality of our maps, for example by using shop, street and traffic signs to refine our local business listings and travel directions; and
  • 3-D building imagery: we collect 3D geometry data with low power lasers (similar to those used in retail scanners) which help us improve our maps. NavTeq also collects this information in partnership with Bing. As does TeleAtlas.
We recognize that serious mistakes were made in the collection of WiFi payload data, and we have worked to quickly rectify them. However we also believe that Street View is a great product for users, whether people want to find a hotel, check out a potential new home or find a restaurant. If you want more information about driving schedules, please look here http://maps.google.com/streetview.

*We've updated this paragraph to clarify that both the hardware and
software will have been removed from all Street View vehicles before they
resume driving.