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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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Three things...
By iFX on 5/21/2010 9:51:53 AM , Rating: 2
1.) First off, yes, open wireless networks can be accessed by anyone within range with the right equipment however, no one on this forum or most people in general have the ability to document and map these networks on the scale that Google does (nationally, globally?) which is where the concern comes in. Whether there is a legal concern I don't know but I'm surprised anyone is ok with Google's mapping of networks including the MAC addresses and then correlating them with a specific GPS/Address. Anyone who thinks this was accidental is kidding themselves.

2.) People... secure your networks for Christ's sakes. It takes less than five minutes to setup WPA2... maybe slightly longer to reconnect your existing devices. Just do it, Google has proven that not just war drivers are out there looking for YOUR network. Who else may be?

3.) Who sends critical, confidential data over wifi? A lot of people apparently. I think people don't understand the risk to their data, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it. Lock down your $#!^ people!

RE: Three things...
By Motley on 5/21/2010 10:19:57 AM , Rating: 2
I am suprised anyone cares if google knows your SSID/MAC address. This is about as sensitive as correlating someones address with a GPS location on a global scale... You might also call that process making maps.

RE: Three things...
By iFX on 5/21/2010 10:22:23 AM , Rating: 2
A street address does not confirm a specific activity at that specific location.

RE: Three things...
By keith524 on 5/21/2010 11:38:09 AM , Rating: 2
My view of this is that once you set-up a wireless network you are freely sending that data out into the world around you. If you are worried about someone being able to pick it up then you shouldn't send it out. You can try to minimize the risk by setting-up security on your network, but the risk is still there...

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