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Google Government Privacy Wireless Networking Your Rights Online

Google Releases Wi-Fi Sniffing Audit 198

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-harm-no-foul-right-guys dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "In the wake of the controversy surrounding its Street View data collection processes, Google has published an independent audit of its practices, prompting a London-based privacy group to accuse Google of a 'criminal act.' The report provided some more in-depth, technical details (PDF) about what Google has already admitted to doing: storing wireless data packet information that was collected over unencrypted networks. According to the report, Street View cars collect data sent over wireless networks, and associate this information with data from a GPS unit in the vehicles. The technology used, known as gslite, then parses and stores certain identifying information about these wireless networks to a hard drive. That information includes the MAC address and the SSID amongst other things like e-mails addresses and browser history." Google also sent a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders acknowledging their mistake and claiming they have not "conducted an analysis of the payload data in a way that allows us to know exactly what was collected."
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Google Releases Wi-Fi Sniffing Audit

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  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Friday June 11, 2010 @10:41AM (#32536260)

    ...or I could congratulate Google for making more people aware that just because they cannot visualize their wireless traffic does not mean that car or truck that is sitting outside isn't recording their "innocent" online chat with that hot babe they'd just as soon their spouse doesn't know about.

    Then again, perhaps I'm jaded because my very first job out of high school involved...eavesdropping. I know it is possible; I know it happens; I know encryption is your only friend.

  • by jdgeorge (18767) on Friday June 11, 2010 @10:44AM (#32536316)

    Just curious, what jurisdiction, and what laws were broken, and are those laws punishable by jail time?

  • by rumith (983060) on Friday June 11, 2010 @11:01AM (#32536550)
    That's the way the law is written. The problem is not that Google intercepted it, the problem is that Google saved their unencrypted transmissions to their hard drive while not being authorized to do so.
    I condemn groups like Privacy International for using Google's screwup as a cheap PR resource to promote themselves. You want to claim that it was intentional, prove it in the court! Where's the libel law when you need it?
  • by mukund (163654) on Friday June 11, 2010 @11:02AM (#32536564) Homepage

    So if I were to set up a radio transmitter that transmitted certain info, can I then accuse whoever looks at that info of being a criminal?

    Yes, if you can prove malice.

    You have a private conversation about your MP3 collection with your friend in the park. A 3rd party picks it up with a mic. Don't broadcast that stuff?

    You route your data through your ISP. Your ISP records whatever it wants. Don't broadcast that stuff?

    You post a comment on Facebook. It's forever in Facebook's database. Don't broadcast that stuff?

    Your phone calls are recorded by your phone provider, who gives you a "convenient web-based interface to replay conversations whenever, wherever you want." (Gosh, all email is like this, and people are fine with it.). Don't broadcast that stuff?

    No, the data is really private to you and whoever you intended it for. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either stupid or malicious.

  • Should be (Score:4, Interesting)

    by spleen_blender (949762) on Friday June 11, 2010 @11:02AM (#32536574)
    Falsely accusing or indicating someone has committed a criminal act should be grounds for libel or slander.
  • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Friday June 11, 2010 @11:03AM (#32536584)

    Mod me into oblivion, but I don't get how you can have a privacy interest in data that you are transmitting unencrypted. This is not just like leaving a door unlocked or a window un-blinded (which is inaction), there is a positive action of transmitting that information in such a way that anyone can read it. Calling this unauthorized access is really bizarre -- it's like saying I eavesdrop on my neighbors when they get drunk and start yelling very loudly at each other. Is it too much to ask that if you want to keep something private you ought to refrain from actively broadcasting it to the world? To be clear, I'm not talking about inferring a lack of a right from inaction (not locking your door is not an excuse for thieves) -- only conscious actions.

    Google might yet make a public service of this and send out a postcard to these addresses explaining that they have chosen to make their internet usage public and they might do well to revisit their wireless setup. Of course, normatively they should probably discard any private data they collected just as matter of decency but that's not the same as saying they should be required to by some novel notion of privacy that extends to private information even when the rightful owner has willingly made it public.

    [ Also, an aside, it's 2010! Who still uses an email client that's not https (web) or SSL (pop/imap/exchange)? GMail certainly is https (all of it, not just the login). ]

  • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Friday June 11, 2010 @11:10AM (#32536698) Homepage Journal

    In the days CRT ruled supreme, it was entirely possible to grab video images from any television or computer monitor directly. Up until the scrapping of analogue TV, anyone with a standard TV areal plugged into a DVD player, cable box, or whatever, was unknowingly broadcasting EVERYTHING they watched. An areal is a two-way device.

    (The British discovered this when the fifth broadcast channel started up at the same frequency as a few million Nintendos and a few million more VCRs. This was the ultimate in DDoS attacks, with each and every one of those devices acting as a jamming device. It cost the Government of the day a small fortune to repair, though I'm not sure their solution of re-tuning every household electronic device was the most practical of the options.)

    But this signal is entirely possible to intercept and display. Even if that information is something like a home-made sex tape or some other sensitive material. Which means anyone who HAS watched such material on an unsecured device has risked that information being grabbed by a drive-by. This has been known, and done, for decades. Joe and Jane Average just don't give a damn. Well, until it affects them, at which point the fact that it's bloody obvious and something they've only heard about on news stories for most of their lives will completely escape them and they'll protest they could never have known.

  • by tokul (682258) on Friday June 11, 2010 @11:42AM (#32537224)

    It's like people who don't want to be photographed in public.

    I don't care if people photograph street with me in it. I can turn away. I do care when they photograph me in the street. It depends on purpose of photographing.

It's not so hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground. -- Daniel B. Luten

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