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Google's Streetview Privacy Snafu Prompts Lawsuit 418

Posted by timothy
from the bloodsucking-lawyers dept.
shmG writes "Google's secret data collection has prompted a class-action lawsuit that could force the company to pay up to $10,000 for each time it recorded data from unprotected hotspots, court documents show. The incident, which the company claims to have been unintentional, has prompted the ire of governments and privacy groups around the world. Google collected information that could be used to identify users, including 'the user's unique or chosen Wi-Fi network name, the unique number given to the user's hardware ... [and] data consisting of all or part of any documents, e-mails, video, audio, and VoIP information being sent over the network by the user,' the suit stated."
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Google's Streetview Privacy Snafu Prompts Lawsuit

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  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:00AM (#32289038) Homepage Journal

    I hate to tell you this, but in many jurisdictions it is perfectly acceptable to peer in windows without curtains.

    Hopefully this will go to court and Google will establish a good precedent.

  • by Rophuine (946411) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:36AM (#32289268) Homepage
    This is only about open APs. If you read the article, Google wasn't collecting any encrypted traffic at all.
  • Re:get rich (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rophuine (946411) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:41AM (#32289292) Homepage
    I guess you've never seen the results of a class action. If it succeeds, Google gets to pay the plaintiffs' lawyers (anywhere from a few tens of thousands to millions of dollars), and the court orders along the lines of "Google must delete the data, put up a public apology for a week on their main page, and give every plaintiff a $50 ad-words credit."
  • by Rophuine (946411) on Friday May 21, 2010 @01:33AM (#32289564) Homepage

    No, fuck that. I am NOT going to learn how to change the brake pads on my car. I pay someone to do it. If I want to do it myself, that's fine. If I want to have a mechanic do it, that's also fine. But if I fail to do it and run over and kill somebody, I am at fault. When I bought my car off the second-hand dealer he never told me about changing the brake pads, and it didn't come with a manual. It is STILL MY FAULT.

    Of course I'm agreeing with your point. I just wanted to point out that you don't need to learn a THING about your networking gear. You CAN be an 80-year-old grandmother and get this right: pay someone to do it for you.

  • by oddTodd123 (1806894) on Friday May 21, 2010 @01:58AM (#32289686)

    Why was the Google StreetView system collecting this data to begin with?

    Google intended to collect SSID and MAC address data from WiFi routers in order to improve their mobile location-based services (i.e., if they know what router you are sending your packets through, they can narrow down where you are). To save time, the engineers working on the Street View code borrowed code from another Google project that was related to WiFi sniffing in some respect. Since this was never going to be publicly released code, they did not bother vetting the code they borrowed from their colleagues; all they knew was that it gave them the war-driving data they wanted. Turns out it also collected a whole bunch more data that they did not care about, but which turned out to be random packets being sent across these routers.

  • by ShinmaWa (449201) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:16AM (#32289784)

    Why was the Google StreetView system collecting this data to begin with?

    To build a database of open wifi hotspots for Wi-Fi Geolocation [arstechnica.com] to add location-based services to Android, much like how the iPhone and iPod Touch use Skyhook [skyhookwireless.com] to do the exact same thing.

    Glad I could help.

  • by janrinok (846318) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:21AM (#32289810)
    "I'm still wanting to know how Google violated your 80-year-old Grandmother's privacy, and which laws they broke." (ec.europa.eu) http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/fsj/privacy/law/index_en.htm [europa.eu]. There, now that wasn't too difficult, was it?
  • by slaingod (1076625) on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:31AM (#32290492) Homepage

    The funny part is where she claims to be a high-tech worker...

    "Van Valin works in a high technology field, and works from her home over her Internet-connected computer a substantial amount of time," the complaint read.

    "In connection with her work and home life, Van Valin transmits and receives a substantial amount of data from and to her computer over her wireless network. A significant amount of the wireless data is also subject to her employer's non-disclosure and security regulations."

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