Google's secret Wi-Fi snooping was powered by new sniffing technology that the company wants to patent, court documents filed Wednesday alleged.
A just-amended complaint in a class-action lawsuit first submitted two weeks ago claims that a patent Google submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in November 2008 shows that the search giant purposefully created technology to gather, analyze, and use data sent by users over their wireless networks.
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The lawsuit, which was filed by an Oregon woman and a Washington man in a Portland, Ore. federal court May 17, accused Google of violating federal privacy and data acquisition laws when its Street View vehicles snatched data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks as they drove up and down U.S. streets.
Google acknowledged the privacy issue May 14, but said it had not known it was collecting data from unprotected wireless networks until recently.
The company faces multiple civil lawsuits in the U.S., and is under investigation by authorities in several countries, including Canada , the Czech Republic, France, Germany Spain and Italy. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has said it will take a "very, very close look" at the Google practice.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Oregon lawsuit upped the ante Wednesday when they amended the original lawsuit to include charges that Google filed for a patent on Wi-Fi sniffing technology more than a year and a half ago.
According to the modified complaint, Google's technology can collect the make and model of wireless routers, the street address of that router and even the "approximate location of the wireless AP [access point] within the user's residence or business."
In its patent application , Google noted that multiple antennas could be mounted on vehicles, which would be able to obtain a more accurate estimate of the router's location based on a "stereo" effect.