May 142010
 May 14, 2010  Posted by  Featured News, Online

Brad Stone writes:

On Friday, Google made a stunning admission: for over three years, it has inadvertently collected snippets of private information that people send over unencrypted wireless networks.

The admission, made in an official blog post by Alan Eustace, Google’s engineering chief, comes a month after regulators in Europe started asking the search giant pointed questions about Street View, the layer of real-world photographs accessible from Google Maps. Regulators wanted to know what data Google collects as its camera-toting cars methodically troll through cities and neighborhoods, and what Google does with that data.

Read more in the New York Times.   Basically, Google is saying that they had a privacy-invading “oopsie” by using code that sampled payload data and not just SSID information and MAC addresses.  As a consequence, they will be disposing of all of the private data they collected and are discontinuing having Street View cars collecting WiFi network data entirely.   Google also takes the opportunity to remind people of the dangers of unsecured WiFi networks.

Note:  direct link to Google blog post.

Image credit: RBP/Flickr

  2 Responses to “Google Admits to Snooping on Personal Data”

  1. [quote]discontinuing having Street View cars collecting WiFi network data entirely. [/quote]

    Does that mean that the location data in Android phones will not be as good now?
    Seems like it would be better to just stop collecting the private data.

    Feels like an overreaction by Google to me.

  2. They didn’t say it would be a temporary cessation while they corrected the code, etc.

    Of course, they could always turn around later and say, “Well, we meant temporarily….”

    Then again, even if they just fix/change the code to not collect the payload data, they will still be facing the EU and AU privacy regulators. I’m not sure how the EU folks will react if Google collects SSID and MAC from a home that has opted out of Street View. Google maintains that it is perfectly legal under German law and other laws for them to collect such info (in general), but they are really encountering more resistance overseas than they are here.

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