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Google Privacy Wireless Networking Your Rights Online

Google Street View Logs Wi-Fi Networks, MAC Addresses 559

Posted by timothy
from the cannot-see-basements dept.
An anonymous reader points to this story at The Register that says "Google is collecting more than just images when they drive around for the Street View service. 'Google's roving Street View spycam may blur your face, but it's got your number. The Street View service is under fire in Germany for scanning private WLAN networks, and recording users' unique MAC (Media Access Control) addresses, as the car trundles along.' There's a choice quote at the end: 'Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said Internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide.'"
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Google Street View Logs Wi-Fi Networks, MAC Addresses

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  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:22AM (#31953452)
    ... that it has just been 'Googled'.

    This doesn't look good on the surface ... and reeks of Google's Buzz privacy blunders all over again.

    Why can't Google (and everyone else for that matter) just stick to the personal data people are foolish enough to hand over to the web? This type of action puts them on the edge of WiFi hackers who are "just seeing if it could be done" ... except for that they're doing it for tens of thousands of personal and business WiFi networks.
    • by grantek (979387) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:24AM (#31953466)

      Basically Schmidt's quote can be better worded as saying "internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they're broadcasting something they have to hide".

      • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:29AM (#31953542)

        Or in other words, "if you have something to hide, hide it". Privacy through obscurity is not an option on an indexed resource like t'internet.

      • by Goaway (82658) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:36AM (#31953614) Homepage

        Actually, Schmidt's quote can be better worded as saying "If you have something to hide, you shouldn't show it to the internet, because police can and will request that information from any provider, including Google".

        But that doesn't sound at all as threatening, so let's just pretend he said something else!

        • by clsours (1089711) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:54AM (#31953838)
          Does anyone have the actual citation? Cause that would be kinda nice. http://xkcd.com/285/ [xkcd.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BlackSnake112 (912158)

          Sorry but recording all MAC addresses? Google's "Do no evil" just went out the door. There is no reason for Google to record the MAC addresses of devices.

          Can people do scans and get that information, yes. The catch is they should have to do that scan to get it. ISPs most likely already know the MAC addresses, and they should it is their network.

          Google is acting like it does not have to follow the rules.

          • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday April 23, 2010 @12:48PM (#31957184) Journal

            Sorry but recording all MAC addresses? Google's "Do no evil" just went out the door. There is no reason for Google to record the MAC addresses of devices.

            Actually, they do have a reason - it's called "WiFi geolocation", and can be used in conjunction with cell towers to pinpoint one's position much more precisely than towers alone can do. It's used in such capacity in Android, for example.

            I've also heard that iPad (at least the non-3G variety) also uses WiFi geolocation.

            In any case, I don't see the problem. On Slashdot, it has been said countless times in the past (e.g. with respect to websites being crawled when they don't want it to happen) that "if you put it in public, it's public". Well, guess what, that's precisely what a wireless access point does, if you tell it to broadcast its ESSID! It's not even something of the "unlocked door" variety, it's literally actively transmitting this information for everyone to hear. Noting it down is absolutely not a privacy threat - not anymore than the broadcast itself is in the first place!

      • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross.yahoo@ca> on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:48AM (#31953764)

        He is hypocritical...

        Check out the following article:

        http://news.cnet.com/Google-balances-privacy,-reach/2100-1032_3-5787483.html?tag=nl [cnet.com]

        Reaction from Google? CNET is barred one year from google.

        http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/Google-Angry-at-CNET-66164 [dslreports.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tagno25 (1518033)
      What they are doing is not even questionable, it is completely legal. They are just making a Wi-Fi map via scanning, not attempting to connect to the Wi-Fi.
      • by RulerOf (975607) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:04AM (#31953984)

        What they are doing is not even questionable, it is completely legal.

        That's true here in the US. Existence of companies like Skyhook and the iPod Touch's location feature make that evident. The question is if it's legal in Germany.

        Not that it shouldn't be, particularly when an AP is metaphorically screaming,

        Hello there, anyone who can hear me!
        My name is Linksys!
        You can tell me apart from other folks with the same name because I'm XX:YY:ZZ:AA:BB:CC!
        If you like, I can give you an IPv4 address!
        No, no, I haven't been told to exclude anyone who doesn't know my favorite word or phrase!
        Please talk to me! I love you!

        Here in the States, logging that you heard such a declaration rightly isn't against the law. Further, based on my very crude analogy, I also don't think that "unauthorized" connection/use of an unprotected/unconfigured AP should be a criminal offense either. Perhaps if someone learns that their pipe is being used against their knowledge, they could (and should) take civil action to force that person to pay for what he's been freeloading on, but I digress.

        For someone who actually breaks in to an encrypted AP (and yes, WEP counts), consider that WEP might be like a retarded-midget bouncer who'll believe you if you lie to him, whereas WPA could be, "My name is Linksys ... Sorry about this, but unless you speak Italian and ol' Tony tells you what my favorite word or phrase is, I can't give you an IPv4 addres!" Any situation where network encryption is either bypassed or broken without the network owner's knowledge and permission is nefarious outright, regardless of intention, and that should most definitely be a criminal offense. Although if ol' Tony finds out before the cops do, you're probably even worse off.

        • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:15AM (#31954126)
          I would so mod you up if I could. In addition to companies like Skyhook, private hobbyist groups like Wigle [wigle.net] have been doing this for years. Wigle is up to 20 million logged and geolocated APs. And if you download their client and play with the request constraints enough, you could retrieve every one of those entries with a little patience.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by WolfPup (120228)

          It does appear it can be done in Germany. Skyhook's coverage map shows plenty of of access points in Germany for their service. I would expect that they aren't all user submitted and more a result of the wardriving efforts to map certain areas. I don't know if they needed to do something special like registering with the government to allow this.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by VGPowerlord (621254)

          For someone who actually breaks in to an encrypted AP (and yes, WEP counts), consider that WEP might be like a retarded-midget bouncer who'll believe you if you lie to him, whereas WPA could be, "My name is Linksys ... Sorry about this, but unless you speak Italian and ol' Tony tells you what my favorite word or phrase is, I can't give you an IPv4 addres!" Any situation where network encryption is either bypassed or broken without the network owner's knowledge and permission is nefarious outright, regardles

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dominious (1077089)
          yes, but imagine Google was logging car plate numbers together with the address location they are parked and then published all that information on the web. Anyone could find where you live just by looking at your car plate numbers...Is this safe?

          And yes, your car plate number and your home address are both public already, but at least they are not published on the Internets are they?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            yes, but imagine Google was logging car plate numbers together with the address location they are parked and then published all that information on the web

            That's a pretty big leap from what is actually happening with these kinds of services. For one, it's possible to associate a person and their license plate without knowing where they live. But the only way you can associate a person with their SSID is going to their house, basically. And even then in a crowded apartment you'd probably be able to see sever

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            yes, but imagine Google was logging car plate numbers together with the address location they are parked and then published all that information on the web.

            A car plate number is linked to its owner's personal information. A MAC address or ESSID are not linked to anything.

            And yes, your car plate number and your home address are both public already, but at least they are not published on the Internets are they?

            The idea that adding "... on the Internet" to something fundamentally changes privacy issues is akin to a similarly silly idea that adding "... on a computer" to a patent somehow makes a new, patentable invention.

        • by Sancho (17056) * on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:41AM (#31956196) Homepage

          It's true that this seems legal in the US. However there are lots of things which are legal because they seem harmless in the small scale, but which become privacy concerns on the large scale. The current laws don't deal with situations like this.

          An example is police tailing. Police are allowed to follow someone without practically any oversight. This is self-limiting because it takes manpower, which is a highly limited resource. However courts have stated that surreptitiously monitoring someone's car with a GPS is equivalent to police tailing. This is something which requires considerably less manpower. Tailing with GPS is no longer self-limiting. If this were done on a large-scale, lots of people would consider it an invasion of privacy.

          An entity listening to broadcasts in the 2.4Ghz range in a small area is probably not a problem. An entity with the ability to listen to these broadcasts across the entire US? That's something worth rethinking. Maybe it's a problem, and maybe it's not. I really don't know. But due to the scale, it's a slightly different situation.

    • by poetmatt (793785) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:30AM (#31953546) Journal

      okay, so how is this different than any other wardriver or just anyone using wifi and how is it any more "enforceable"? Your computer keeps track of MAC addresses. There are apps that can be put on your phone to track mac addresses and open/close status while driving along with gps, and it's public information.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jawn98685 (687784)

      This doesn't look good on the surface ... and reeks of Google's Buzz privacy blunders all over again. Why can't Google (and everyone else for that matter) just stick to the personal data people are foolish enough to hand over to the web? This type of action puts them on the edge of WiFi hackers who are "just seeing if it could be done" ... except for that they're doing it for tens of thousands of personal and business WiFi networks.

      My first reaction was the same - "How dare they play so fast and loose with 'private information' like that...", but on reflection, I'm not sure it's a bad thing. My house has wifi. It is secured well enough that I don't need to worry about he neighbors borrowing my bandwidth or a drive-by spam cannon causing me grief. Several of my neighbors..., not so much. It's 2010, folks. The risk of running an open wifi is well-known, as are the means to secure it, and still, most wifi routers/access points come out

  • Ignorance abounds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:24AM (#31953468) Homepage Journal

    Wow. That's pretty shitty reporting, even for The Register. Yes, Google records SSIDs and (I guess) MAC addresses of wifi APs. That way they can estimate your position for Google Maps on a mobile device, even if you have no GPS on that device. This has been public knowledge for at least a year now.

    In regards to Streetview itself and recording SSIDs and such, there is simply no privacy concerns. When you are in public, people can see you. When you broadcast signals, people can receive them. If you don't want to be seen, don't go out in public. If you don't want people to see the SSID of your AP, don't broadcast it.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:30AM (#31953552)
      The privacy concern is that Google is building a massive database of SSIDs -- this is not the same as your neighbors being able to see your SSID, this is a corporation with global reach.

      This is the same sort of problem that we complain about when a company collects little bits of information that you leak in public, and builds a dossier on you. Yes, the information is technically public, but the fact that it is being assembled en masse is the problem. It is impossible to hide ever detail of your life from view, but when such a large database is built up, it reveals a lot about a person, potentially including things they did not want revealed.
      • by ahankinson (1249646) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:36AM (#31953610)

        Maybe I'm just ignorant, but how would they map the SSID to you? All they know is that in this area, someone somewhere has a router with a SSID of "X." (And, if you're anything like my neighbours, half of those are named "linksys.")

        • Perhaps they will just wait until you use some program they wrote (a web browser?) that has a feature which forwards the BSSID you are connected to whenever you log in to a Google server. Considering how few people would have the technical skill to remove such a thing from Chrome, or to install Chromium, or to even understand what that means, I would guess they could get away with it.

          Also, they probably record the numeric SSID of the AP, which should be unique (although I have seen MAC addresses that ar
        • by Shakrai (717556)

          Not everyone lives in a densely populated urban environment. Where I live the houses are far enough apart that it's child's play to determine which AP is running in which house.

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          Easy: They record the MAC address at the same time then when you surf to a site which has Google Analytics embedded in it they've got you!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LurkerXXX (667952)
          Triangulating the position of a fixed broadcast point by a moving receiver (the Google van) is pretty trivial. My guess is there are some smart guys at Google that could make a way to do it in about 5 minutes if they want the data, which they appear to want.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by GooberToo (74388)

            This assumes they are continuously recording signal strength with GPS position. Perhaps they are, I dunno. Just the same, as someone up above already pointed out, if you have an Android phone and enable the Wireless Location provider, it can pinpoint your accuracy to within 35m or so, which likely indicates they don't continuously capture signal/location (or don't do the calculations to enhance the reported accuacy) and that its very roughly 2x the distance between the street and your location.

            Of course, th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        The privacy concern is that privacy concerners are fucking idiots like you.

        ITS IN PUBLIC. ANYTHING IN PUBLIC IS, wait for it, PUBLIC!!!!!!!!!

        It doesn't matter if you collect just one little bit of public information or you collect every single piece of public information. It's public. You have no right to expect privacy IN PUBLIC.

    • Re:Ignorance abounds (Score:5, Interesting)

      by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:37AM (#31953616)

      If you don't want people to see the SSID of your AP, don't broadcast it.

      Broadcasting an SSID is a strictly local affair - maybe within a range of 50 metres, tops. Having Google store the SSID and its location makes it a global issue. It makes it practical for the sort of government department we'd ALL prefer to keep away to hold and analyse this data.

      However, the biggest problem I have with this sort of collection of data is that I was not asked if I minded having information regarding equipment I own collected by a third party, who then hold it and may pass it on to others without my permission, or even my knowledge.

      • by gnieboer (1272482) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:25AM (#31954268)

        In another ominous development, the phone company is planning to release a compiled document containing every name, address, and phone number of all their wired clients. The books will be published by region but be available globally. They'll be called by the disturbing name "White Pages".

        They also will provide a charge-per-call service wherein on a request from not only government agencies but also private citizens, they will mining their data stores nationally in search of a particular individuals detailed info. While there is no clear consensus on this point, it appears this service will either be called 'Information' or mysteriously... just '411'.

        They claim there will be an 'opt-out' option, but it will not be enabled by default, and there will be an extra charge for it's use.

        Just some perspective to apply, not really meant as humor. This issue is about as dangerous as the phone book IMHO. You've got (or should have) an option in your router to hide your SSID. If you aren't using it, then you are BROADCASTING it. If someone tracking this information centrally really concerns you, change your SSID randomly every 30 days, and the MAC of your router. If your router doesn't support changing it's MAC, get a better one.
        If it REALLY concerns you, don't use WiFi! There are much more nefarious things that can be done against WiFi than just logging an SSID/MAC that might actually be worth worrying about (again, IMHO).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)

          In another ominous development, the phone company is planning to release a compiled document containing every name, address, and phone number of all their wired clients

          Really? Where I live, you are asked when you sign up for the phone service whether you want to be in the telephone directory, and you may (by law) opt out if you wish.

    • by Tim C (15259) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:45AM (#31953736)

      If you don't want to be seen, don't go out in public.

      And yet many countries have laws against following someone around, noting down their movements.

      If you don't want people to see the SSID of your AP, don't broadcast it.

      I don't care if people see my SSID. I may care that a company (which makes its money from selling targeted advertising) has recorded it and stored it in a database along with location details, photographs, etc. That is fundamentally different from my neighbours and casual passers-by being able to see a SSID of "home" as they pass my house.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NEW22 (137070)

        Are you saying there needs to be a special law in place to prevent people and/or businesses from writing down your publicly broadcasted SSID? Maybe people should be fined or jailed? What would be the parameters on what you think should be possible?

        Personally, I have a hard time conjuring up a reason to care that someone might have this info, so could you maybe paint your nightmare scenario? Is it something along the lines of "Through data-mining Google has been able to correlate my user accounts with my

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:05AM (#31953998) Homepage

      they can estimate your position for Google Maps on a mobile device, even if you have no GPS on that device. This has been public knowledge for at least a year now.

      2+ years [zdnet.co.uk]. It's a great application, with no more privacy implications than if you were to call someone with local knowledge and describe the landmarks that you could see near you.

      Nobody, least of all Google, cares who owns "BT Home Connect 9923123" or "Pr0n4Free4EvarLan", they just care that there's a SSID in that area with that name.

      Cue objections from Tin Foil Hatters who don't want The Man to be able to describe the outside of their parent's basement, lest their very souuuuls be stolen and sold to, god, I don't know, the Saucer People.

      Fill me in, Hatters. To what Evil use could this information be put? Try to use reasons that might actually be valid on Planet Earth, if you please.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:24AM (#31953474)

    Google Maps provides WLAN-based location triangulation, on both phones and wi-fi capable computers. To do that, they look up the MAC addresses of visible wi-fi hotspots in a location database. Google is not the only company that does this via wardriving, and they at last have the sense to keep it secure enough that nobody can just look up your MAC address and get your geographic location. Unlike certain other wi-fi positioning systems. [wordpress.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by epiphani (254981)

      I personally discovered this when my phone started insisting that I was living at my old apartment whenever I was at home.

      My old place is halfway across town, and I moved nearly a year ago. Yet whenever you can see my access point...

  • The Reciprocal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:24AM (#31953478)

    If I don't have anything to hide, then what logical reason do you have to spy on me?

    Of course this applies to private companies just as much as government.

  • And... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrZilla (682337) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:25AM (#31953482) Homepage

    'Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide.'

    And what if I DO have something to hide? Will you then remove me from all of your databases and registers?

    • by Tuzanor (125152)
      If you have something to hide, HIDE it. Don't leave it in plain view. Don't leave it on an open WIFI network. Make the WIFI network hidden. Don't post on forums. Don't upload your pictures to flickr. Don't create a slashdot account. Don't do anything.
    • by Goaway (82658)

      No, and that is why he said that. It was a statement of fact: Police can and will request that information, so you shouldn't be providing it if you want to hide it.

    • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MonoSynth (323007) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:40AM (#31953662) Homepage

      And what if I have nothing to hide for the current government but don't get the assurance that today's laws are tomorrow's laws?

      With enough information in the hands of governments, it's very easy to change a law, criminalize something that was perfectly legal and find and eliminate most of the 'criminals' under those new laws.

      I know I'm kind of invoking Godwin's law here, but in 1939 it was perfectly legal to be Jewish here in the Netherlands. In the 1930s the Dutch government made an almost perfect register of the whole population, so in 1940 it was very easy for the Nazis to eliminate almost all the Dutch Jews.

      • by MRe_nl (306212) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:55AM (#31954626)

        'In the Netherlands, the effort at establishing a comprehensive
        population registration system for administrative and statistical
        purposes was completed even before the Nazi-occupation (Methorst,
        1936; Thomas, 1937). In 1938 H. W. Methorst, who was then the
        director-general of the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics and
        formerly also head of the Dutch office of population registration,
        reported on the rapid progress being made in the Netherlands in
        implementing a new comprehensive system of population registration
        that would follow each person "from cradle to grave" and open "wide
        perspectives for simplification of municipal administration and at the
        same time social research" (1938: 713-714)... ... These registration systems and the related identity cards played
        an important role in the apprehension of Dutch Jews and Gypsies prior
        to their eventual deportation to the death camps. Dutch Jews had the
        highest death rate (73 percent) of Jews residing in any occupied
        western European country--far higher than the death rate among the
        Jewish population of Belgium (40 percent) and France (25 percent), for
        example."
        source:
        "The Dark Side of Numbers: The Role of Population Data Systems in
        Human Rights Abuses." Social Research, Summer, 2001, by William
        Seltzer, Margo Anderson, hosted by findarticles.com:
        http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m2267/2_68/77187772/p4/article.jhtml?term= [findarticles.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tolgyesi (1240062)
        Here in Hungary the German minority was deported in 1946 based on a previous census where they answered honestly about mothertongue because it was a neutral information at the time the census was made.
    • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:54AM (#31953826) Homepage Journal

      Those people who say "if you have nothing to hide" have something to hide -- their ignorance or contempt for your intelligence. There are a lot of things that are not illegal you don't want known; adultery is legal in Illinois. Even in states where it may not be illegal, you still wouldn't want your girlfriend to know she's not the only one. You may be a closeted gay working for a right wing congresscritter, or a closeted conservative working for a left wing congresscritter. You might not want people to know that you watch Mickey Mouse cartoons. The list goes on.

      Either Schmidt is stupid (and I don't buy that) or he thinks you are.

  • Schmid (Score:5, Informative)

    by MancunianMaskMan (701642) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:27AM (#31953508)

    Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide.'"

    No, actually, he said that if you have $SOMETHING to hide then doing stuff concerned with $SOMETHING on t'internet is not a smart idea.

  • by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:27AM (#31953516)
    I know I'm supposed to be outraged about Street View. I'm trying, I really am. But the outrage just isn't there.

    It's (generally) not illegal to take one picture of a storefront from your car. It's not illegal to take two, or three. Nor is it illegal to put those pictures on the internet. Google is just taking this process and deploying it on a larger scale than anyone previously had the resources for. I think it's the same with wireless networks. YOU have chosen to blast your MAC address into the ether for anyone within a certain radius to record, so why should you be surprised when someone does?

    Google is just acting as an army of men with clipboards, no single one of whom is doing anything wrong, and for me it doesn't follow that there's something wrong when they do it en masse, provided they stick to public roads and take the privacy precautions (blurring faces, etc.) they have been.
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:35AM (#31953590)
      The problem is that it is so large, well organized, and that they have the capability to process the information in large quantities. A single person who happens to see some minute public detail of your life is probably going to forget it within an hour, but Google is collecting vast amounts of data for analysis. The situation changes when an "army of men with clipboards" is roaming around, then bringing their data back and combining it all. The odds are stacked against an individual who might want to keep certain details of their life private when an organization as large as Google is trying to pry their lives open.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AdmiralXyz (1378985)

        The odds are stacked against an individual who might want to keep certain details of their life private when an organization as large as Google is trying to pry their lives open.

        But Google isn't "prying", that's my point. They're collecting information that you have chosen to make available publicly, whether it's by placing it on the public Internet, or broadcasting it over EM waves where anyone nearby can pick it up. If you want privacy, don't announce your information in a public manner, and you will be off Google's radar. Google got blasted for Buzz (and deservedly so) because information that people thought they had selected as "private" was being made available, but that's not

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The problem is that it is possible to extract private details of a person's life from a large database of public details. Yes, Google is prying -- not directly, but indirectly, by collecting and analyzing these details.

          Even small details like MAC addresses may ultimately reveal a lot of private data about a person, particularly combined with other information (such as its geographic location?). No, nobody expects every single detail of their life to be private; at the same time, many of us do have secr
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tim C (15259)

      It's (generally) not illegal to take one picture of a storefront from your car. It's not illegal to take two, or three. Nor is it illegal to put those pictures on the internet. Google is just taking this process and deploying it on a larger scale than anyone previously had the resources for.

      There are things that can be done in the small scale that are not a problem, that become an issue when taken to the large scale. One example I deal with from time to time at work is aggregation of information - under the

    • by Xest (935314) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:00AM (#31953916)

      The biggest concern I have with street view is:

      a) Burglars no longer need to visit an area to scout it to check for targets. The common argument from the pro-street view group against this is that well anyone could come down and take a picture for the same effect- that's true, but here's the difference, using my house an example. I live on a cul-de-sac, to get to my house and take pictures without someone noticing a guy with a camera would take some doing, everyone on our street knows everyone else, if someone came down, and turned around, someone would see them. If there was a subsequent burglary, then there would be witnesses who could point the police in the right direction in terms of a number plate, or a description of a person, or person(s) looking dodgy. With street view this is gone, people can now scout our street without ever knowing, they can perform a burglary without anyone have ever seen anyone suspicious looking coming down the street to scout it. They can spend as much time as they want examining the images on street view for best ways to rob the houses, or steal a car or similar. As much as the pro-street view grouping likes to suggest that because the images are taken from public places, it doesn't decrease security or make things any easier for criminals, they are wrong, it does. Which takes me to the second point:

      b) The street view camera is quite high up, when browsing around on street view in the UK down by my girlfriends grand mothers house, I followed along a road, and was amazed to see how many walls I could see over that I'd never seen before. One image showed right over a wall you can't normally see over into a person's french windows that aren't normally visible showing a nice big 50"+ flat screen TV and a bunch of games consoles and games in full view, that no one passing by in the street would have otherwise ever known was there. The camera was most certainly too high on the street view vehicles and nullifies somewhat the argument that the images were taken from places where people could normally take pictures- could is perhaps true, but would? No, no one was going to walk around on stilts, or sat on someone elses shoulders or similar to take pictures in what would otherwise be random places. Again, if they were criminals, and if they did this it would raise further suspicion. People would remember seeing the culprits around.

      I understand the theory that street view doesn't cause any issues in theory because they are just taking images from public places, but it's a theory that simply doesn't map to reality. Anyone scouting an area physically will be seen, there will be witnesses, if they take pictures of people's houses there will be a lot of suspicion from residents, if they hang around getting a good look into people's houses, there will be suspicion. Nothing lets criminals plan out a highly profitable crime spree and even map their best exit routes without ever having to be seen quite like street view does.

      In the UK, I think what fucked me off most recently about it is that street view drove past the SAS HQ on a public road and photographed that too, yet a couple of MPs complained saying it put the SAS HQ's security at risk. Google accepted this and removed the images- I mean, wtf? So it's only a security risk for one of the most heavily defended army bases in the UK full of the best trained troops in the world, but it's not a security risk for say some unarmed old pensioner whose house has been filmed as a prime burglary target? Even if the approach was consistent it would be something, yet even that's not the case.

      All this is not to say I'm totally against it, I think it's a cool piece of technology and I think a dataset of the world in images that large could prove vital to building new image recognition technologies and so forth (i.e. improving Google Goggles), I think my real concern is that it's not something that was well planned out, there wasn't enough public consultation, it does raise issues, and those issues have not been discussed and see

      • by canajin56 (660655) on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:54AM (#31956380)
        Your neighborhood sounds horrifying if 24/7 you have people with binocs recording the plates of everybody who visits. There was an equally crazy "gated" community near where I lived. I walked down it, to see what it was like, see if it was worth the city park they bought and bulldozed to build it. Some guy with a notepad ran up to me "This is private property and just standing here will put you in jail, I know you're not visiting, there are no children allowed" and I said "Oh I'm just casing the place, what's your house number and when do you work?" he bolted, probably called 911 80 times. Scary scary 12 year old, was I. I know better now, of course. He doesn't work, that's why he can sit on his porch on constant guard against schoolchildren taking a shortcut down his private through street that leads to the duck ponds...if your strata doesn't want visitors, build a damn barbwire fence and put an armed guard on your gate like the rest do. Meanwhile, a still shot from Google doesn't help you case, because you can't tell when anybody works, it doesn't let you plan shit. And odds are, it doesn't show you much or anything of what they have inside. If it does, a casual walk down the street would show you that, no need for any "suspicious peering" as you call it. And far from being the most risky part of a burglary, taking a quick look around just isn't that hard. In a gated community, ya, anybody who doesn't belong must have hopped a fence to get in, and that's suspicious...but if not...well...I've lived on a cul-de-sac...have you, really? There are always cars turning in, realizing its the wrong turn, looping around, and leaving. Do you really write them all down just in case? And do you make quick sketches or photograph people who walk in on foot? I dunno, is the UK really that far gone into big brother? Do you really corner and grill people out walking their dogs? How dare they take a loop around your street, it's not theirs! GET OUT FOREIGNER!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Exactly. I think that when people blame Google for doing something clever and legal that they had not anticipated, they choose the wrong target for their anger. You think it is not normal Google can do that ? Well, maybe there is a need for a debate about privacy & the public place then. For too long, people suppose that the vastness of the "public space" works as an anonymizer. With video-surveillance, wireless-thingies tracking, etc... this becomes less and less the case. Soon we will have to assume t
  • .There's a choice quote at the end: 'Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide.'

    OK, let me take the learned man's position and agree that I have something to hide...so I should worry. Is it a crime to have something to hide? I thought not.

    Now what? Yes, I have something to hide so I am worried about my privacy....so just go away Google. Just go away. Will you just leave me and my "stuff" alone please.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Goaway (82658)

      OK, let me take the learned man's position

      The learned man's position is to distrust what he is told by strangers, and check facts for himself.

      You didn't do that.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Yes, I have something to hide so I am worried about my privacy....

      Still waiting for the part where you explain it's google's responsability to hide it for you.

      If you indeed have something to hide, hide it. Don't spread it all around and then demand everyone else to not read it.

  • Dear Google (Score:2, Insightful)

    Can you please explain how wardriving is not evil?

    Oh, and, by the way, off course I do have something to hide. That is why it is called privacy.

    • If you want to hide your SSID and the MAC of your router, why then are you broadcasting them into the public space? If this information is that important to you, switch to ethernet and disconnect that from the internet.
    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      It does not need to be explained, it's not wardriving. They are not connecting to peoples access points.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      If you yell things in public places you can't expect people to not hear them, remember them, write them down if interesting.

      If your access point broadcasts its ssid and mac address you can't expect devices to not see them, remember them, record them.

    • Re:Dear Google (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk&gmail,com> on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:12AM (#31954090)

      Wardriving is evil now? This is news to me...

      It's not exactly like they are going to jump on your network and listen to all of your traffic. They're just recording your MAC address and your SID (which you chose to make publicly available) which you are blasting out into the world on the electromagnetic spectrum. Really this is no different than them driving past your house and recording what color you painted it.

  • How on earth can you map the MAC (of assuming you wireless router) to a facebook account? Besides, it's the MAC which might be visible (don't know if it is) in the WIFI data a different one that the MAC used by the external interface which connects to the ISP?

    • by tagno25 (1518033)

      How on earth can you map the MAC (of assuming you wireless router) to a facebook account? Besides, it's the MAC which might be visible (don't know if it is) in the WIFI data a different one that the MAC used by the external interface which connects to the ISP?

      It is different, but usually the WAN interface is next to it.

      Also MAC addresses do not traverse the internet, they are only used between devices on the same network segment. As soon as your traffic gets passed through a router, the associated MAC info changes to the routers MAC. AFAIK.

  • Origin of Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by redelm (54142) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:38AM (#31953628) Homepage

    Oh dear, I wish he hadn't said that. I hope he does too. Even quoted a bit out of context (it was possibly a flip tagline), when you direct activities at the biggest datalogger around and have capabilities that most people regard as extremely penetrating, you just do not say anything that might scare people. Bad for business.

    Many people do not understand why privacy is a right. As he says "Why worry if you have nothing to hide?" It is not from nothing: One word answer: PREJUDICE. Privacy is basically a right of self defense against prejudice (and malice too, for that matter). We all have good reason to be concerned about the impression we make upon others since they can often make arbitrary decisions that affect our interests.

    Of course others have a right to relevant information, but we have a right to control how much beyond we choose to present, and to whom. We do have a right to be treated as individuals. Not products of some correlation -- statistics is _descriptive_, not prescriptive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by farble1670 (803356)

      yeah he didn't say that actually. in a nutshell, he said that in the age of the patriot act where the government can access any electronic record, if you are doing something illegal, you had better not be doing it in the internet.

  • I use LINUX (Score:5, Funny)

    by mgkimsal2 (200677) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:39AM (#31953656) Homepage

    so I guess only people unsavvy enough to use MACs will have their addresses recorded! Whew!

  • I don't (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustOK (667959) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:42AM (#31953700) Journal

    I don't have a mac address. I use PCs.

  • Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide.'
    YOU don't have anything to actively search there in the first place.
  • by Sabalon (1684) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:08AM (#31954046)

    I can just see Google Maps now - "We have found you are near wifi access point Linksys. We have narrowed your location down to one of these 1,232,342 locations."

  • Easy fix (Score:4, Funny)

    by netsavior (627338) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:49AM (#31954568)
    My friends and I all have a wifi router swap program. We each have 2 routers (WRT54G) and we keep one active until google wardrives them then we mail them off to the next person in the list. And he mails you one that google tagged as being elsewhere in the country.

    if you are in front of my house, google will tell you that you are in Southern California (1500 miles away)

    (no this post is not actually true)
  • by Zenin (266666) on Friday April 23, 2010 @01:55PM (#31958002) Homepage

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1975 [apple.com]

    "Location Services allows applications such as Maps, Camera, and Compass to use information from cellular, Wi-Fi1, and Global Positioning System (GPS)2 networks to determine your approximate location. This information is collected anonymously and in a form that does not personally identify you.

    About location precision or accuracy

    Depending on your device and available services, Location Services uses a combination of cellular, Wi-Fi, and GPS to determine your location. If you're not within a clear line of sight to GPS satellites, iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS can determine your location using Wi-Fi3. If you're not in range of any Wi-Fi, iPhone can determine your location using cellular towers."

    Do you know how they figure out your relative location via Wi-Fi? Yep...they've already got a map of transmitters in the wild to refer to, just like the map Google is building.

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