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Suit is seeking class action status

The sheer number of wireless networks in use in the average neighborhood in America is staggering. Most of the routers and networks today are easy to setup and anyone can install a secure network that blocks unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data. Some people setup a network and simply leave it open allowing any data sent to potentially be seen or captured.

Last week Google announced that after an audit requested by a German data protection authority it discovered that it had been inadvertently capturing some "payload" data from unsecured wireless networks. Google admits that it knew its Google Street View vehicles (GSV) were capturing the SSID and Mac address of protected WiFi networks.

lawsuit has been filed in a court in Portland, Oregon by two people accusing Google of violating federal privacy and data acquisition laws reports
ComptuerWorld. Lawsuit documents read, "When Google created its data collection systems on its GSV [Google Street View] vehicles, it included wireless packet sniffers that, in addition to collecting the user's unique or chosen Wi-Fi network name (SSID information), the unique number given to the user's hardware used to broadcast a user's Wi-Fi signal (MAC address, the GSV data collection systems also collected data consisting of all or part of any documents, e-mails, video, audio, and VoIP information being sent over the network by the user [payload data]."

The plaintiffs are seeking a court injunction to prevent Google from deleting any of the data that it collected. Google had stated that it intended to delete the data as soon as possible, but that it was working with appropriate regulatory authorities to determine how to safely delete the data.

The plaintiffs in the suit, which is seeking class action status, are Vicki Van Valin from Oregon and Neil Mertz of Washington. Ironically, Van Valin claims to work in a high tech industry and to send large amounts of data for her job across her wireless network. The work she does is covered under non-disclosure agreements and security regulations, yet shewas sending the data over an open Wi-Fi network. Van Valin claims that GSV vehicles have driven by her home at least once. Mertz also claims to have sent confidential information over his open WiFi network.

The compliant stated, "Van Valin works in a high technology field, and works from her home over her Internet-connected computer a substantial amount of time. In connection with her work and home life, Van Valin transmits and receives a substantial amount of data from and to her computer over her wireless network. A significant amount of the wireless data is also subject to her employer's non-disclosure and security regulations."

Both plaintiffs in the case are seeking statutory and punitive damages in the amount of $100 per day for each day any plaintiff or class member's data was captured or $10,000 per violation, whichever amount is greater.

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By MrBlastman on 5/21/2010 9:25:00 AM , Rating: 5
If her job depended on security of her work, she might have had the forethought to secure her router and then go the additional step of using an RSA-SecurID plus an encrypted tunnel.

She did not.

She is full of fail. I suggest that her employer sue her for violating the NDA contract and all possible damages they may encur from this breach of security.

I'm not defending Google, but, when I see a numbnuts making a lawsuit, I have to point it out.

RE: Perhaps...
By Golgatha on 5/21/2010 9:31:37 AM , Rating: 2
I rated your comment up. Furthermore, if the data is very sensitive, I would not be sending it over WiFi anyway. Wired connections FTW. Classified networks simply do not allow WiFi to be present. Too much of a security risk.

RE: Perhaps...
By Trekie on 5/21/2010 9:34:03 AM , Rating: 2
Haha. I totally agree. Also not defending Google (but I still love them!), but I would totally like to see this lady get into a little trouble from her company. Seriously, who in their right mind would send secure/confidential documents over an insecure network? "Here's your sign!"

RE: Perhaps...
By Aikouka on 5/21/2010 9:35:31 AM , Rating: 3
"A significant amount of the wireless data is also subject to her employer's non-disclosure and security regulations."

The quoted statement is kind of vague, but I can't imagine that if her work is governed by security regulations (assuming governmental), that she would ever be able to work remotely without using some sort of passcode-based VPN login.

I wouldn't call myself a Google apologetic, but I think the whole thing is kind of silly. If I didn't know anything about technology, this suit would make me think that Google gained massive amounts of data from these people where in reality, it maybe intercepted a dozen or so packets. Although, that's really just my guess about the thought of a vehicle simply driving by in an area and picking up on a signal for a small time before jumping to another closer one (or losing it because it drops out of range).

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