• May 15, 2010
Big Brother is always watching. Or listening. Or maybe just nabbing some info off of your unsecured Wi-Fi network. Google has officially grounded its fleet of Street View cars after discovering that the rolling tech stations were inadvertently sampling data from open Wi-Fi networks. How did this happen? According to a post on the search giant's blog, a piece of errant code found its way into the same program that Google uses to help pinpoint businesses in your area. As a result, tiny snippets of information were stored in the halls of Googledom as the Street View cars rolled through towns and cities all over the globe. The company says that it was never looked at and that it wants to delete the information as soon as it gets the OK from authorities.

If it's any consolation, Google says that the bits of data should be very small and very fragmented. Why? For one thing, the Street View cars are moving, and the company says that the program was designed to change channels five times per second. Even so, Google will submit the software to a third party for review. The flaw was discovered following an audit from the German Data Protection Agency.

Let this be a lesson to you, kids: lock down your Wi-Fi.

[Source: Engadget via Google]


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  • 18 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Street view is kind of creepy. Yes, anyone cruising down the street can see your house, but in that scenario, you can also see them and call the police if they look suspicious (which we have done).
      But, with Street View, you have no idea who's looking at your home and why.
      For instance: the fellow who lives across the street almost always has his Cadillac XLR parked in his driveway. In the old analog world, someone would have to cruise the street to find that out, exposing them to return scrutiny.

      Now any would-be car thief can see it online in complete stealth and anonymity and devise a plan for stealing the car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        But anyone can delete their home location from street view, so it's really not an issue... bottom right of the page, if I remember correctly.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If I were going to try to steal a car, I wouldn't rely on possibly years-old photographs to do so. I'm sure your would-be car thief is going to physically drive past a place before deciding to steal a car that was in front of a house once.
      HotRodzNKustoms
      • 4 Years Ago
      I still hate street view when it comes to recording residential neighborhoods. Our privacy is being invaded!
        • 4 Years Ago
        @HotRodzNKustoms
        Oh yes, cause they are obviously seeing something that some random person driving through your subdivision couldn't see, right?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @HotRodzNKustoms
        And they are making maps!
        Which show the roads people live on!
        And they have numbered all the houses!

        You should double the tinfoil shielding, man.
      • 4 Years Ago
      hmmm... I kind'a knew this three years ago when my iPod Touch could locate itself on the Google map application, with pretty good accuracy, when it was near a public/unsecured network signal. Why is this suddenly surprising everyone? Google knew they were capturing this data because they used it as a poor-man's GPS locator.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The concern over data collection is not that they have been noting the lat/long location of wifi hotspots. They have previously said they were doing that and using it to help provide the geolocation service used by a number of mobile devices.

        When the German government ask Google about that data collection, Google explained that they were gathering network identifiers and locations. The agency asked if that was all that they were collecting and Google said "yes". Later, Google noticed other data in the raw data they had collected and they notified the agency and ask that they be allowed to delete that data.

        Google says that the additional packets of data that were collected were fragmentary bits and pieces picked up when they were gathering the location data. It appears that a significant number of people are running their wifi networks with no encryption at all. They are basically broadcasting their data all over their vicinity.

        Why do wifi router manufacturers still allow the devices to be setup with no encryption by default? The setup wizards should make it painfully clear to people how exposed they are.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And that is such a stupid way to record your position. If you're in the middle of nowhere, suddenly the device you're counting on is doing nothing. I had a man basically flip out because he couldn't get a signal on his ipad.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Much ado about nothing. I am one of the people who deliberately run my WiFi unencrypted for the very reason that anyone passing my house is free to use it. Of course, the fact that I can barely pick up a signal in my attic bedroom from my router two floors below probably means no-one outside my house can either (it's an old house, and they knew how to block radio signals in building it, clearly). However, I do take other precautions in protecting my data. Anyone even on an encrypted network should do the same. But who is going to be interested in what I do with my computer anyway?

      I just wish street view would ever hurry their asses up and get Ireland covered. I want to spook about my old neighbourhood, to see if it's still as much of a hellhole as it was when I left it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I dont believe Google... they are LIARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Just another reason why I do NOT trust Google... no wonder they were kicked out of China... SPIES!!!!!!!!!!

      And Gov't Motors wants to use Google for a new in-car system (like Sync)... makes a good pair... I dont trust either of them!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hey MadeInDetroit


        What you just heard him say is exactly what you would hear (and read on signs) at a tea party rally or something that Sarah Palin would say to criticize President Obama.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Mr. Greg Aryous , what you have just said, is the most insanely idiotic thing I have ever heard. At no point, in your rambling incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this blog is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.
      • 4 Years Ago
      No harm, no foul. I love streetview.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I should have sent an email to engadget earlier

      - its DPA - wich stands for "deutsche presse agentur" (~german press/news agency) - and not data protection agency ....

      (i'm not 100% sure, but i've never heard of a Daten Beschützungs agentur, which would be your take on DPA vaguely translated to german ;) )
        • 4 Years Ago
        The fact that this is a corporation -- not some hack criminal -- is just scary. Between stuff like this and companies blatantly manipulating markets and government, it's getting pretty clear that America is fundamentally corrupt.

        Honestly, it's time to stop calling this "impropriety" or "an error in judgement." Google, like so many other institutions in the United States, are simply "CORRUPT."

        "Do no evil", my as*.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What is the big deal, just a mistake that happens every day in the corporate/development world. Fix the problem, delete the data and move on.

      Whomever's making this a big deal is just out to sensationalize this issue.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Every third post will be ridiculous
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