Saturday, May 22, 2010

Google is turning evil

Google Data Admission Angers European Officials


BERLIN — European privacy regulators and advocates reacted angrily Saturday to the disclosure by Google, the world’s largest search engine, that it had systematically collected private data since 2006 while compiling its Street View photo archive.

After being pressed by European officials about the kind of data the company compiled in creating the archive — and what it did with that information — Google acknowledged on Friday that it had collected snippets of private data around the world. In a blog post on its Web site, the company said information had been recorded as it was sent over unencrypted residential wireless networks as Google’s Street View cars with mounted recording equipment passed by.

The data collection, which Google said was inadvertent and the result of a programming error, took place in all the countries where Street View has been catalogued, including the United States and parts of Europe. Google apologized and said it had not used the information, which it plans to delete in conjunction with regulators.

But in Germany, Google’s collection of the data — which the company said could include the Web sites viewed by individuals or the content of their e-mail — is a violation of privacy law, said Ilse Aigner, the German minister for food, agriculture and consumer protection. In a statement Saturday, her ministry demanded a full accounting.


But in its review, Mr. Oberbeck said the company learned that its data collection performed by roving Street View vehicles was much more extensive, including a record of sites viewed by the user and potentially the contents of messages if users did not secure their WLANS with a password.

Despite its internal efforts to address the situation, Google may face an uphill battle in Germany overcoming skepticism about its intentions. So far, thousands of Germans have signed up to have their properties excluded from Google’s Street View archives.

If Google’s software makes a mistake, it could be costly for the company. Till Steffen, the justice senator for the city-state of Hamburg, where Google’s German headquarters is located, said Google’s latest disclosure raised questions about its intent to follow local laws.



annom said...

"Google was collecting the data on locations of wireless networks to improve geolocation for mobile devices. Some cellphones can determine their location by scanning for nearby wireless networks and comparing that information to databases like the one Google has compiled"

A real reason for scanning the wireless networks and I also believe that they did not collect all data on purpose, at least not to do privacy related things with the data. It looks completely useless to have snippets of wireless internet data, the car will only have a few seconds of data. Google doesn't need the scan wireless networks to know what sites people visit or what type of mails they send.
Everyone can do this btw, my phone even has an app to do this. I'm not sure about the legal status.

Better join the anti facebook privacy bandwagon than focus on Google, at least for now.

pimp-a-lot bear said...

The good sign in this story is the disclosure by Google themselves. They admitted their mistake and confessed their sins. A cover-up would have been much worse.

I agree with Annom it's best to focus on Facebook for now.