Thursday, October 21, 2010

Google Street View Scanned And Collected Data Streams From WiFi Nodes; Canadian Privacy Commisioner Not Impressed; Google Stops Doing It

"The Canadian government concluded today that Google's collection of fragments of Wi-Fi transmissions violated the law, but also said that the recording was the "result of a careless error" and was not intentional.

Jennifer Stoddart, Canada's privacy commissioner, said she would consider the investigation closed and the matter resolved as long as Google revises its internal procedures to improve "the privacy training it provides all its employees" and deletes or segregates any data relating to Canadian citizens.

In e-mail to CNET, a Google spokesman said the company is working with the privacy commissioner: "As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks. As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting all Wi-Fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities."

Stoddart's report sheds a bit more light on what led to the erroneous collection of about 12 Blu-ray discs' worth of Wi-Fi transmissions worldwide. She said that her investigation revealed that an unnamed Google engineer failed to follow company procedures by not sending design specifications for Street View code to the company's legal department for review"

CNET - Canada slaps Google for Street View Wi-Fi intercepts

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"Google’s roaming Street View cameras have been doing more than snap pics of your neighborhood; they’ve also been collecting packets of information sent over private WiFi networks, the company acknowledged Friday.

The company said the collection was “a mistake,” the result of a programming error, and that it has now stopped collecting the data, according to a post on its blog.

But the revelation raises questions about whether the company violated federal wiretapping laws in collecting the information and could draw scrutiny from U.S. regulators.

Last month, regulators with the Data Protection Authority in Germany asked the search giant what information its Street View cameras collected and what it did with that information."

Wired Magazine - Google Street View Cams Collected Private Content From WiFi Networks

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"Preliminary Letter of Findings
Complaints under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (the Act)

1. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada initiated three complaints against Google Inc. (Google) on May 31, 2010, pursuant to subsection 11(2) of the Act, after being made aware that Google Street View cars had been collecting payload data from unencrypted WiFi networks during their collection of publicly broadcast WiFi signals (service set identifiers [SSID] information and Media Access Control (“MAC”) addresses.
2. The three complaints are as follows:
1. Google’s collection, use or disclosure of payload data was done without the individual's prior knowledge and consent;
2. Google’s collection of payload data was done without prior identification of the purposes for which personal information (PI) was collected;
3. Google’s collection of payload data was not limited to that which was necessary for the purposes identified."

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada - Preliminary Letter of Findings; Complaints under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (the Act)


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"(CNET) -- Google has no plans to resume using its Street View cars to collect information about the location of Wi-Fi networks, a practice that led to a flurry of privacy probes after the company said it unintentionally captured fragments of unencrypted data.

The disclosure appeared in a report on Street View released this week by Canadian privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, who said that "collection is discontinued and Google has no plans to resume it." Assembling an extensive list of the location of Wi-Fi access points can aid in geolocation, especially in areas where connections to cell towers are unreliable.

Instead, Stoddart said that, based on her conversations with headquarters in Mountain View, Ca., "Google intends to obtain the information needed to populate its location-based services database" from "users' handsets."

That, at least, should come as no surprise. As CNET reported in June, mobile phone and laptop users who run certain Google applications already share their location information with the company, which then uses this crowdsourced data to refine its mapping capabilities.

When Google Maps Navigation users requests a location fix with the "use wireless networks" option checked in their settings, their device sends over a list of all nearby addresses associated with wireless hot spots, which can in turn be checked against Google's existing database of those addresses gathered through the Street View project."

CNN - Google ditches Street View Wi-Fi scanning

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Picture Credit: Wired Magazine - Google Street View Cams Collected Private Content From WiFi Networks

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