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Google Government Privacy Your Rights Online

Germany Demands Google Forfeit Citizens' Wi-Fi Data 318

Posted by kdawson
from the forfeited-trust dept.
eldavojohn writes "Germany has ordered Google to give up hard disk drives used to store German data collected during their Street View operations in that country. This follows Google's admission last week (after prodding from the Germans) that it had collected the data from unsecured wireless area networks from around the entire world as its roving cars collected the photo archive for Street View. Google says they've offered to just destroy the data, in cooperation with national regulators, but the German government wants to know what they've collected. They do not think that destroying the drives suffices for compliance with the laws. Officials went so far as to say of the situation, 'It is not acceptable that a company operating in the EU does not respect EU rules.' Germany has certainly been keeping their eye on the search giant." The Ars coverage notes that the US FTC may be looking more closely at Google's collection as well.
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Germany Demands Google Forfeit Citizens' Wi-Fi Data

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  • Re:Privacy laws (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @02:39PM (#32256044)
    It's against the law in Germany to have unsecured wireless networks. Since Google has already collected all this information for the German government they simply want to start handing out fines based on it. "Google, helping any way we can (TM)"
  • by Valacosa (863657) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @02:45PM (#32256122)

    It's sad that Google is getting punished for "doing the right thing" and being honest about their screw-up.

    Google: Oops! We accidentally collected all this data we weren't supposed to. Sorry, but we thought you should know. We'll just be deleting* that now... Germany: NO! You don't respect EU laws! Turn that data over!

    If Google had just kept quiet and didn't admit their wrongdoing, nobody would have known about the issue, and there wouldn't be any of the wrangling we see now. But should a company keep quiet whenever it fucks up? A culture of denial is worse. It's sad, because it's exactly this sort of persecution which creates a culture where companies never admit anything, ever.

    * Except the legal department probably advised them against deleting the data right after the confession, just in case something like this happened.

  • Re:Great News! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @02:46PM (#32256142)

    My thoughts exactly, how does giving the wifi data to a government solve anything.

    So they can determine whether google did anything wrong, and if so, google can be punished to prevent them or somebody else from repeating this in the figure. (What, too obvious?)

    As for the other concerns, do you really think prosecutions of private citizens will arise from this? I don't. But I do think the govt. should collect just enough of the drives, say a randomly selected 1%, to determine what actually happened.

  • Re:Oh i get it. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tokul (682258) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @02:55PM (#32256276)

    Google collected broadcast data by accident, but as yet has not violated my privacy.

    It violated your privacy. If we follow your line of though, then spies don't violate your privacy. Privacy is violated only by those who get your information from spies. Spies themselves have nothing to do with it. ... Right

  • by bradbury (33372) <Robert@Bradbury.gmail@com> on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:51PM (#32257094) Homepage

    The Gestapo was never eliminated it just reinvented itself as the German Government. While one can argue that Google was fairly stupid to collect the data in the first place (why create a potential liability since we know that the "powers that be", not just in Germany, always want more information). What was Google hoping to do with the data -- market locations of open WiFi spots? First of all the *information* is "public" -- anyone citizen is free to collect it (if they want to drive around a fleet of vans with the appropriate receivers). Second of all I believe several countries have criminalized open WiFi hubs (so their days are probably numbered -- most probably because the governments want to climb into bed with the providers to know who is using "anonymous" internet access -- look for them to attempt to compromise any "anonymous" software next).

    The only way Google climbs into the equation is that they happen to have collected (concentrated) public data. So they represent an easy target for governments to go after to gain an information source which it might be illegal to obtain (May depend on jurisdiction. In the U.S. spying on ones own citizens is extremely problematic one hopes). Far easier to issue a subpoena for the data from a foreign company than to actually collect the data oneself. I would have no objections if any such data releases were being subjected to a joint oversight commission by the EU and the U.S. to ensure that it was not being subjected to misuse. (The recent ACTA exposures and such agreements as the EU-India Free Trade Agreement which is in part trying to protect the EU from Indian generic drugs suggest that the EU is as "in bed" with corporations as people in the U.S. know is the default reality). One has to ask why would governments seek information from private organizations which they could collect themselves? I at least would ask serious questions regarding why they need or want such information. Perhaps seeking an end-run around issuing subpoenas to all ISPs for citizen browsing habits? And even more importantly a criteria for selecting an ISP -- those whom DO NOT KEEP RECORDS.

  • Re:Privacy laws (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Josef Meixner (1020161) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:00PM (#32257238) Homepage

    Oh, I'm not disputing that Google keeps admitting to having harvested way more than they ought to have. I just don't see how giving the information to the government makes things better.

    Easy, how can we be sure, that Google captured the data accidentally? How can we be sure, that they really only captures some fragments which are basically noise. They lied to the German government twice now. And had to admit to having collected way more data than previously admitted. Don't forget, they have been doing that for 3 years now and only now, that the German government actually started to take a look at what is happening we get the information, what has been going on. And not being from the US I actually trust my government more than a company which has a "strained" relationship with privacy.

    I don't actually know what the remedy should be here, but showing that data to even more people isn't in keeping with the privacy laws either.

    Actually it is, as the person asking for it has exactly the job of making sure, that companies respect the privacy laws. Their power is very limited (just look at the puny fee he can hand out).

    And, if any of that data should end up on US soil, the US laws on their access to data collected by US companies would mean the US government could subpoena this and force Google to not tell anyone.

    Actually the four hard discs containing the data seem to be in or near San Francisco (I guess, that they are actually in Mountain View). From the NYT article linked:

    In a blog posting late Monday, Alan Eustace, a Google senior vice president for engineering and research, wrote that a San Francisco company, Isec Partners, had overseen destruction of the Irish data.

    In his blog Mr. Eustace included a link to a report from Alex Stamos, the Isec Partners employee who witnessed destruction of the Irish data from the larger batch of WLAN data improperly collected around the world.

    In his letter to Google, Mr. Stamos described the WLAN data in question as being contained on four hard drives, organized by individual country. Mr. Stamos said he created volumes on two new encrypted hard drives and copied over all of the data except for Ireland. The original four hard drives were then destroyed, Mr. Stamos wrote.

  • Re:MOD PARENT UP!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bengie (1121981) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:23PM (#32257560)

    listening != accessing

  • Re:Privacy laws (Score:2, Interesting)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @05:00PM (#32257978) Journal

    So this implies that listening is ok?

    In Germany, it isn't. But more importantly, recording isn't OK. Recording is different than listening, and it's sometimes OK to listen but not to record. For example, if someone has sex in a room with the window open, and you can see it from the street without problems (and without any technical aid), AFAIK you can watch as much as you want (at least as far as the law is concerned). However as soon as you use your cam to record it, you're in trouble.

  • Re:Privacy laws (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dissy (172727) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @07:10PM (#32259150)

    Seriously, security is the answer to security. Making it illegal to detect and record open-air RF is like making it illegal to see things.

    In Britain it is illegal to receive certain publicly broadcast RF if you do not pay the BBC, and it is actively enforced.
    (AKA Over the air television)

    In USA it is illegal to see certain things, and having done so can easily get you a life sentence in prison. In fact the law requires you to report the fact you saw it, so you will only get a short stay in prison instead of the rest of your life.
    (AKA Porn of 18+ year old people, but where someone somewhere claims they are under 18... Or a cartoon, stick figure drawing, or story describing such a picture as well...)

    There is already too many bad ideas for them to draw on, but don't think the law being totally out of touch with reality will have any effect on them being made, passed, and enforced :{

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