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Google's Street View cameras were capturing quite a bit more than what was originally intended.
Google maintains it didn't realize the data was being collected

Google has raised concerns on more than one occasion from users and privacy advocates who are concerned about the wealth of private data Google collects and stores. This information includes search history of users who use the search engine and more.

One of the more controversial programs that Google runs is its Street View program. Google sends cars outfitted with cameras and other tech to drive around and capture images of streets, homes, and buildings to make navigation easier for users. The problem is that the cars have captured information that raised privacy and security concerns. The most notable breach of security was when Street View cars took photos of military bases in some states, which some say could be used to plan terrorist attacks.

Google Street View cars also captured information from public Wi-Fi networks as they drove around including the SSID and MAC address of routers on protected networks. Google has maintained that it does not capture any payload data from these networks. However, Google is now saying that on inspection of the data it has been capturing, prompted by a request form the Data Protection Authority in Germany, it has discovered that it did in fact capture some payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.

Google is adamant that it did not use the payload data in any Google products and that typically only small fragments of the data were captured at all. The small amounts of captured data are attributed to the fact that the Street View cars are in motion and change Wi-Fi channels about five times each second.

Google states that a person would have had to be using the Wi-Fi network at the exact time a Street View car drove by and would have to be on a non-secure network for this to be an issue. However, Google says that it has grounded its Street View car fleet after learning of the issue and is working with regulators in multiple countries to determine how to dispose of the collected data.

Google has also stated that after this experience that it will stop its Street View cars from gathering Wi-Fi data at all. To maintain trust Google is getting a third-party to review the software that caused the problem. As Google explains it, the way the Street view cars were able to capture payload data from unsecured networks was due to code placed in a portion of the software back in 2006 by an engineer working on an experimental Wi-Fi project. That code was later incorporated into Google's Street View system without Google realizing the code was there. Google will also review its internal procedures to be sure this sort of problem doesn't happen in the future.

Google uses this issue as a cautionary tale for users on unsecured wireless networks writing, "This incident highlights just how publicly accessible open, non-password-protected Wi-Fi networks are today. Earlier this year, we encrypted Gmail for all our users, and next week we will start offering an encrypted version of Google Search."



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RE: Poor Naive Google
By InvertMe on 5/17/2010 11:07:05 AM , Rating: 1
Who cares the network is open. If you don't want to share with the world then lock down your router.


RE: Poor Naive Google
By wushuktl on 5/17/2010 11:46:39 AM , Rating: 1
I agree. This infuriates me. why is this Google's problem if they were open networks?


RE: Poor Naive Google
By Obujuwami on 5/17/2010 11:51:57 AM , Rating: 2
Not everyone knows how to lock down a router, even the consumer ones that come with disks that do it all for you automagicly. People also don't want to have to fight getting friends on their network because its password protected and they don't know if their computer will play well with WPA2 (if they know what that is in the first place).

Things like Geek $quad exist because of people like this and war drivers exist for the same reason. TBH, you can't fix stupid or lazy.


RE: Poor Naive Google
By stirfry213 on 5/17/2010 12:40:46 PM , Rating: 3
Ignorance is not an excuse for me. It certainly isn't an excuse in the eyes of the law. If you buy a device like a wireless router/AP, be responsible enough to read the manual and understand the features.

Try telling a cop next time you are caught speeding and say "I'm sorry officer, I didn't know what the speed limit was so you can't give me a ticket." You will be sorely disappointed.


RE: Poor Naive Google
By OUits on 5/17/2010 12:47:15 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, ignorance doesn't really have anything to do with it. In the eyes of the law, if you sign on to your neighbor's unprotected Wifi, you've broken the law. Check my links below, there are plenty of examples all over the internet.

You're sadly misinformed.


RE: Poor Naive Google
By Quadrillity on 5/17/2010 1:00:11 PM , Rating: 2
I don't recall where he said anything about signing on to an open access point...

What he did say though, is that not knowing how to secure your property does not offer an excuse to complain that someone has taken advantage of said property.


RE: Poor Naive Google
By delphinus100 on 5/17/2010 2:06:53 PM , Rating: 3
The analogy doesn't work because, unlike speeding, an open router isn't illegal, in and of itself, any more than leaving your house unlocked is.

Stupid , absolutely, but not illegal.

And my leaving the doors unlocked, doesn't make anyone who comes in and takes something, any less a trespasser and thief (including theft of services, which unauthorized WiFi use would be) because they didn't have to work hard for it.

But it does still make me stupid.


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