Google Admits Guilt

German officials finally find a crack in Google’s armour and get an admission that they have been collecting private data from unprotected wireless connections since 2006.

The breach was perpetrated using a fleet of camera equipped Vehicles designed to collect data for Google Maps-Street View . In addition to recording wireless locations world wide they were also harvesting what Google calls “snippets of activity on WiFi networks”.

“We didn’t want to collect this data in the first place” said Google spokesperson Peter Barron. Google adds further insult by insisting it was “all a big mistake”. I find this explanation just a little hard to swallow, especially since the admission is the direct result of, and due solely to, the persistence of The German Data Protection Authority.

Reading Google’s Blog, it’s obvious that damage repair is in high gear. Be sure to read the whole thing as its tone is set with perfection. Peter Schaar, the German commissioner of data protection, describes Google’s “Accidental Data Colletion” excuse as “highly unusual”.

“One of the largest companies in the world, the market leader on the internet, simply disobeyed normal rules in the development and usage of software,” he said.

The US, which was previously absent in these developments, is now expected to launch its own probe through the US Federal Trade Commission. Marc Rotenberg, leader of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Centre in Washington, calls this one of the most massive private surveillance incidents ever .

“It is unprecedented vacuuming of WiFi data by a private company. Can you imagine what would happen if a German corporation was sending cars through Washington sucking up all this information?”

That’s a good question Marc but apparently questioning a corporation known for “data collection” never occured to us.

Below is an excerpt and link to the previous TechTalk article.

Google Records Wireless Connections WorldWide

The initial resistance to Street Views was quickly dropped by German officials after Google agreed to use pixilation to hide license plates, faces, and house numbers. Google also allowed citizens the right to completely remove their property from photo archives. The option was fully embraced by hundreds of concerned German citizens and as a result of Google’s efforts, the service should be activated in Germany by the end of 2010.

Short story, no problem right? Wrong! Later German regulators expressed more resistance when they learned that Google was also recording the location of wireless routers for W.L.A.N.’s in homes and businesses. All of these routers broadcast a unique ID number or MAC address. Google was asked to end the practice by Germany’s Data Protection Administrator, Peter Schaar.

You can read the complete article here

I’m dying to hear your opinion on this. Everyday we are bombarded with Identity Theft, Worms, Trojans, and threats we have yet to imagine. It’s just sad to think that Google is another of the many money making machines blind siding us on a daily basis. I sincerely hope further probing results in some return of our rights and maybe even a renewed effort to preserve them. It looks like we could take some cues from our German friends.

Voice your opinions and comments here.


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10 thoughts on “Google Admits Guilt”

  1. i just purchased my first laptop, purchased a wireless contract through my cell phone comp. the store took it upon themselves without my permission, to install my wifi …i am not sure i even recieved the brand new laptop i purchased,they swiftly took it away and about an hour later gave me a fully functional up and running laptop,which tells me im in a state i do not live in or near…but i really dont know how to make my wwan, or wifi lock. how do i encrypt my wwan,wifi router? am i wide open ? what can happen if i am?

  2. All that data collection, it is probably safe to assume that Germany is not an isolated incident, not the only place in the world that they are harvesting. Even if Google holds to the moto Do No Evil, at some point the temptation will simply be too great to ignore, to powerful to deny, and that it will sprout and grow in someone who is in a position to have or gain, by whatever means possible, full access to all that data. And when that happens they will use it in every way they can think of and then some. The simple fact that Google has kept pretty much everything ever typed into it, for certain every single search typed into Google since it was born on a desktop in a dorm room right to this very second is stored on a set of hard drives.
    The only way we ever know anything is going on is when somebody gets caught and the media decides it’s newsworthy.

  3. Whenever I come accross anything with Google — I delete it! That includes the Google search engine that some browsers have included in their software. Google is a ‘criminal enterprise’ that makes 97% of their revenue through advertising. That people are so stupid that it had never occurred to them how Google can ascertain what you are interested in when you log onto your home page or surf the internet.

  4. Jerry in Detroit

    One point I’ve made over the years is have multiple layers of good security. Too many leave their wireless networks open without any security whatsoever. It’s not foolproof but most criminals are looking for easy game. Make it harder and they go looking elsewhere.

  5. Frank Valcarel

    We never know who is watching us. Shame on Google. I know we take our chances with the information technology world., but really Google did you have to let us down too?

  6. What struck me was when I was using a few apps presented by i-google and google chrome. Sure I’d heard of the company storing everyone’s data and how they’re the new area 51 of the internet but realistically we all want applications which simply work together and do what we want them to do almost telepathically. Well in computer terms doesn’t that mean it needs a whole slew of sometimes personal information to work from?

    In this world of interconnected everything, facebooks, twitters and streamed blogs… we’re all pushing towards integration. Everything working from a base system. Well that’s what Google is doing and now people are complaining about their right to not be included. I’m sure you’ll find that Google has very little information on those without computers… but that’s not fair right?

    As always, you pay your money and you take your choice but you can’t ask for integration with one statement and then complain that someone’s doing things that you haven’t explicitly asked them to the next. It’s just not reasonable.

  7. It’s “sad to think that Google is another of the many money making machines blind siding (sic) us on a daily basis?” What did you think they were? They don’t do what they do as a hobby – it’s a business and businesses are in the business of making money. Unfortunately, most companies do “blindside” us on any number of practices until they get caught. As for tracking unsecured wi-fi locations, it takes less than a minute to turn on the encryption in your router. Your router is like your front door. Lock it if you want to keep others out. Google shouldn’t, however, be intercepting traffic as that violates (at least in the USA) federal wiretapping laws. If it can be proven that they’ve violated the law then they should be prosecuted for that.

  8. Well done. It seems that Google is admitting to something it previously said it did not do. Yes mistakes do happen, but it does make one wonder.

  9. Mary Lynn Kraft

    The Germany v. Google issue has taken a turn much different from what I first thought. Instead of Germany being paranoid, it appears I need to be MORE paranoid!

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