Do no evil Google used roving vans to spy on people's wifi signals

This is moderately embarrassing.

The Internet giant said it would stop collecting Wi-Fi data from its StreetView vans, which workers drive to capture street images and to locate Wi-Fi networks. The company said it would dispose of the data it had accidentally collected. . . .

Google had previously said it was collecting the location of Wi-Fi hot spots from its StreetView vehicles, but not the information being transmitted over those networks by users.

"It's now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) Wi-Fi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products," wrote Mr. Eustace. "We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake."

Google said it has been collecting and keeping the data since around 2007. At that time, the team building the software to gather the location of Wi-Fi hot spots mistakenly included some experimental software that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast Wi-Fi data. . . .



Blogger Unknown said...

Note the limited disclaimer: they never used the data "in any Google products". That would seem to leave open the possibility of all sorts of undesirable uses to which the data may have been used, e.g., sold to direct marketing firms.

5/15/2010 9:44 PM  

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