Decision

Minister says Portugal will "respect" court's PT ruling

The minister said the administration of Prime Minister José Sócrates would look for a way to "respect" European law while still "defending national interests."

European Commission President                       

José Manuel Durão Barroso said the ruling justified the EU executive’s decision to pursue Portugal over its golden shares.

"Except in very, very limited and exceptional cases, the golden  shares are in fact against the internal market and against the principle of freedom of circulation," Durão Barroso said.

Just before the Court made its decision, Telefónica made a written approach to PT’s management that underscored its continued interest in securing  a deal over Vivo, which is Brazil'slargest wireless operator.

"Telefónica is willing to continue seeking possible solutions to complete the transaction, as long as Portugal Telecom is willing," the Spanish firm said in a statement.

In response, PT said it was open to maintaining a "dialogue" with Telefónica on "options that optimize the advantages for all parties."

Just before the June 30 meeting, Telefónica raised its offer for PT's share of Brasilcel — the holding company for the joint venture’s 60-percent stake in Vivo — from 6.5 billion euro.

Telefónica wants to combine Vivo with its fixed-line Brazilian operator Telesp to unlock synergies estimated at 4 billion euro. In selling its interest in Vivo, PT would lose a major source of growth potential for the company.

The solution to the problem could lie in PT remaining as a minority shareholder of Vivo until such time as it funds a suitable alternative investment in Brazil. Telefónica’s share price closed yesterday up 1.19 percent.PT's shares decreased 0.56 percent.

Spain latest country to join probe into Google Street View data grab Spain's data protection agency is joining a dozen other countries that are investigating Google's Street View service, following the company’s admission in May that its camera cars collected wifi information as well as taking images.

In the case of Spain, the alleged infringement took place while a Google-owned vehicle was filming in the northern city of San Sebastián.

Google operates a fleet of vehicles  that compile panoramic images of city streets for its Google Maps site. Those cars also recorded the position of wifi hotspots to power a location service Google operates. Mobile devices within range of a recognized hotspot can be located on Google Maps.

What has attracted the attention of privacy regulators, though, is that Google recorded not just the names of wifi hotspots, but also the web traffic flowing through them at the time the company’s cars passed. Google has defended itself, saying the data collection was accidental and that it only collected fragments of personal web traffic as it passed by because its wifi equipment automatically changes channels five times a second. On wifi networks operating at 54M bits per second, though, a lot of traffic can be recorded in one-fifth of a second.

The company must now disclose the date it started collecting information, how it collected the data and for what purpose, and where and for how long it stores the information, Spain’s data protection agency said. Finally, the company must clarify what data it collected from wifi networks, and whether any of that information has been sold.

In France, where companies must file a declaration with the National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) describing personal data they intend to store in computer systems and the use they wish to make of it, Google might have avoided trouble if it had simply stated in advance that it intended to record wifi traffic.

Noting Google's admission that it had collected wifi traffic, CNIL said Wednesday: "This collection was not mentioned in Google's declaration [...]. That's why the Commission is currently conducting a review of Google, in order to obtain all the information on this case and decide what action to take."

Data protection authorities in  Germany have already announcedinvestigations of Google's collection of wifi data, but the UK's Information Commissioner’s Office decided not to pursue the company after it promised to delete the data.

"We have put our foot in it," the president of Google, Eric Schmidt, told the Financial Times in May. "To be honest, discussing our mistakes is the best way to avoid this happening again," he said, before announcing an internal investigation into the technician responsible for creating the source code for the program that sucked up the data. In a separate move to bolster its image, the company posted an audit sent to the UK data protection agency confirming that it captured and stored data from open wifi routers.

It explained that its intention was to make a map of open networks in the UK to improve its geographic location service. It had initially denied capturing any other kind of information.

Judicial sources in Spain say that they will be talking to Google's representative in Spain, as well as examining the vehicle involved and the equipment used to capture and store data to find out the company's intentions. "This is going to be a long, drawn-out process," said a judicial source.

(Published by El País – July 9, 2010)

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