Google "mistakenly" collected Wifi data.


Rodimus Prime

macrumors G4
Oct 9, 2006
10,132
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BertyBoy

macrumors 6502
Feb 1, 2009
326
0
Google admits wi-fi data collection blunder

From BBC News:
Google has admitted that for the past three years it has wrongly collected information people have sent over unencrypted wi-fi networks.

The issue came to light after German authorities asked to audit the data the company's Street View cars gathered as they took photos viewed on Google maps.

Google said during a review it found it had "been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open networks".
Full story is here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8684110.stm

Is this old news ?

Can anyone explain WHY they would even be using equipment to sample Wi-Fi connections in the Street View cars ? I'd question the usefulness of gathering location information for open networks anyway, given their transient nature.
Accident, dating back to 2006. I don't think so. Then why does it take external auditors to find it ?
 

andiwm2003

macrumors 601
Mar 29, 2004
4,326
379
Boston, MA
Wow news to me.

Google really gets a bad image here in Germany.
Their idea of privacy is really not aligned with what consumers and the law says.

I'm quite sure that recording and storing private communication data is illegal. It's actually so obviously illegal that I can't imagine why they would recoded that info in the first place. Getting the location info is at least understandable but sniffing out the content of what was sent and storing it in their databases in criminal. I hope the German bureaucracy gets moving and Germany or the EU fines them heavily. Also I hope they file criminal charges against the employees who did this and investigate if there was criminal intent or not.
 

ChazUK

macrumors 603
Feb 3, 2008
5,394
24
Essex (UK)
Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPod; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_1_3 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/528.18 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile/7E18 Safari/528.16)

They made a mistake and completley owned up to it. No cover up at all.

Why should I hate them too? I'm not stupid enough to use an unsecured wifi network. People worried about the miniscule packet of data that Google may have collected should be ******** themselves if they've been accessing private data online with an open wifi connection..... ;)
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
It sounds like an honest mistake, although one could argue that, were the honest mistake made by a private citizen, it would be treated as "cybercrime," and much like Sony installing rootkits with their CDs, it ought to be viewed as a criminal action on principle....
 

Erendiox

macrumors 6502a
Oct 15, 2004
706
12
Brooklyn NY
Is it possible they were gathering location data for Wi-Fi networks? As in the way the iPod touch gets its location via Wi-Fi only? I'm sure Google had a reason, whether it's for a currently existing service or one they're planning/experimenting.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Is this old news ?
It is several days old now, but I guess we haven't been discussing it much. I merged you into the prior thread... I think initially, it wasn't clear that data was collected and archived over years of time (which is not reported specifically in the CNN link above, but which has since been noted in other reports, like the one you linked).

Is it possible they were gathering location data for Wi-Fi networks? As in the way the iPod touch gets its location via Wi-Fi only? I'm sure Google had a reason, whether it's for a currently existing service or one they're planning/experimenting.
That is what the cars were out there to do. That's not at issue. What is at issue is that "payload data" means actual content that was being routed over the WiFi connection, and not just the location / name / SSID of the WiFi connection itself. So they were keeping data for several years on the websites that were being served to users on any unencrypted connections to those WiFi routers. That part is the part that is disturbing.
 

Peace

macrumors Core
Apr 1, 2005
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Space--The ONLY Frontier
It is several days old now, but I guess we haven't been discussing it much. I merged you into the prior thread... I think initially, it wasn't clear that data was collected and archived over years of time (which is not reported specifically in the CNN link above, but which has since been noted in other reports, like the one you linked).



That is what the cars were out there to do. That's not at issue. What is at issue is that "payload data" means actual content that was being routed over the WiFi connection, and not just the location / name / SSID of the WiFi connection itself. So they were keeping data for several years on the websites that were being served to users on any unencrypted connections to those WiFi routers. That part is the part that is disturbing.
Google never really publically said they were collecting SSID's of WiFi networks either . At least Google never directly informed me that they were.

This is yet another example of Google's blatant invasion of privacy.
 

Erendiox

macrumors 6502a
Oct 15, 2004
706
12
Brooklyn NY
That is what the cars were out there to do. That's not at issue. What is at issue is that "payload data" means actual content that was being routed over the WiFi connection, and not just the location / name / SSID of the WiFi connection itself. So they were keeping data for several years on the websites that were being served to users on any unencrypted connections to those WiFi routers. That part is the part that is disturbing.
Ah, I understand. That IS disturbing.

On the flip side though, of all the companies that might claim to have done something like this "mistakenly", Google would be one I might actually believe. Being in the information business so deeply, they have to have ironed out their company values. The second people lose faith in Google's honesty and integrity is the second Google goes out of business.
 

kernkraft

macrumors 68020
Jun 25, 2009
2,455
1
Shame on them!

"accidentally" - hah, over several years, in several countries?

That's not a bug, that is a nasty attack on people's privacy. It is corporate recklessness, at the least.

Google's response was actually unbelievable - nobody got hurt, they said. But it took a German official investigation for Google to admit what happened.

The morale of the tale is that you cannot trust any corporation with power. That is pretty much how many large companies still do business. They risk things and hope that they get away with it. I hope that the relevant authority will penalise Google to make them think twice again about breaching people's privacy.
 

benthewraith

macrumors 68040
May 27, 2006
3,073
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Miami, FL
Google never really publically said they were collecting SSID's of WiFi networks either . At least Google never directly informed me that they were.

This is yet another example of Google's blatant invasion of privacy.
So if they were collecting SSIDs of WiFi networks, were they also geo-tagging the locations of the WiFi networks?

There's no way this was unintentional.
 

kdarling

macrumors P6
Oh for goodness' sake.

In real life, people make mistakes.

It's not at all uncommon for one person to leave in test code and have it accidentally used in production, especially if that one person had primary responsibility for the project code.

It's no different than an Apple engineer accidentally leaving a priceless prototype behind at a birthday party.

Never look for a plot when you can explain something by sheer stupidity or carelessness.
 

Peace

macrumors Core
Apr 1, 2005
19,467
3,833
Space--The ONLY Frontier
Oh for goodness' sake.

In real life, people make mistakes.

It's not at all uncommon for one person to leave in test code and have it accidentally used in production, especially if that one person had primary responsibility for the project code.

It's no different than an Apple engineer accidentally leaving a priceless prototype behind at a birthday party.

Never look for a plot when you can explain something by sheer stupidity or carelessness.

Please explain to me why Google would have "test code" that seeks out a WiFi SSID,Geo-tags it then captures data from it ?
 

kdarling

macrumors P6
Please explain to me why Google would have "test code" that seeks out a WiFi SSID,Geo-tags it then captures data from it ?
It sounds like a hundred different code screwups I've seen (and caused - lol) over the past thirty plus years of development.

Nobody named "Google" wrote that code.

A person who worked for Google did. Repeat: a person. Like you. Like me.

That person probably wrote the code as part of his/her testing out ideas, and left it in, thinking it didn't matter. Their bosses, being typical managers, would have no idea the code was there. And they would trust the developer.

When an external auditor finds the code, everyone gets embarrassed and a whip lashing for being so stupid, new internal rules are made, everyone promises to be more careful, and then it eventually goes back to the way it was before.

That's how things screw up in real life.
 

Cerebrus' Maw

macrumors 6502
Mar 9, 2008
409
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Brisbane, Australia
Meh, dont care. The fact that it only happened to non-secure (as in totally open) SSID's renders it rather moot.

I believe in the UK, it is now illegal (heavily frowned on if they catch you) to have a public open wireless regardless. Drive down your local street and your macbook will probably pickup a few open SSID's. Google's scattergun to place the geo's obviously meant that they would pickup some payload from the open networks.

Reminds me of a time when I worked for a subsidiary of Telstra. The team I was on accidentally collected the email address of every single employee in the building after we sent a packet sniffer on the loose to see if our redundancy servers were working.

Guess they were! :D
 

jaykk

macrumors 6502a
Jan 5, 2002
854
5
CA
google admitted this only after German govt investigated this issue, right? They didn't come out and say voluntarily, from what I understand.

Initially they claimed they only "only collected information that is publicly broadcast on WiFi networks, such as network names and router numbers". I guess google came out now because, if German govt finds out that they are collecting more than what they initially admitted, they will be penalized more.

Edit: if it is "test code", google have very poor QA dept as well.
 

Peace

macrumors Core
Apr 1, 2005
19,467
3,833
Space--The ONLY Frontier
It sounds like a hundred different code screwups I've seen (and caused - lol) over the past thirty plus years of development.

Nobody named "Google" wrote that code.

A person who worked for Google did. Repeat: a person. Like you. Like me.

That person probably wrote the code as part of his/her testing out ideas, and left it in, thinking it didn't matter. Their bosses, being typical managers, would have no idea the code was there. And they would trust the developer.

When an external auditor finds the code, everyone gets embarrassed and a whip lashing for being so stupid, new internal rules are made, everyone promises to be more careful, and then it eventually goes back to the way it was before.

That's how things screw up in real life.
Remind me to trust "Google software" in the future.
 

benthewraith

macrumors 68040
May 27, 2006
3,073
80
Miami, FL
It sounds like a hundred different code screwups I've seen (and caused - lol) over the past thirty plus years of development.

Nobody named "Google" wrote that code.

A person who worked for Google did. Repeat: a person. Like you. Like me.

That person probably wrote the code as part of his/her testing out ideas, and left it in, thinking it didn't matter. Their bosses, being typical managers, would have no idea the code was there. And they would trust the developer.

When an external auditor finds the code, everyone gets embarrassed and a whip lashing for being so stupid, new internal rules are made, everyone promises to be more careful, and then it eventually goes back to the way it was before.

That's how things screw up in real life.
If Google didn't have such a track record for spying on its users, I would actually believe that. As it is, they track web searches by cookies and email accounts, probably tracks locations you access on Google Earth and pin points you make, and use bots that read your email and sell advertisements (assuming you don't use IMAP or POP3).

Google would have gladly have turned over the email addresses to the Chinese government if they hadn't of been hacked.
 

northernbaldy

macrumors 6502a
Jan 13, 2010
756
115
the north, UK
It sounds like a hundred different code screwups I've seen (and caused - lol) over the past thirty plus years of development.

Nobody named "Google" wrote that code.

A person who worked for Google did. Repeat: a person. Like you. Like me.

That person probably wrote the code as part of his/her testing out ideas, and left it in, thinking it didn't matter. Their bosses, being typical managers, would have no idea the code was there. And they would trust the developer.

When an external auditor finds the code, everyone gets embarrassed and a whip lashing for being so stupid, new internal rules are made, everyone promises to be more careful, and then it eventually goes back to the way it was before.

That's how things screw up in real life.

lol, what nonsense
no one is an individual at a company like google
you can't just throw in your own ideas with the team and management knowing and approving