Google Street View's innocent data-gathering turns sinister

18 May 2010

google-street-view-roving-car-image A couple of weeks ago, we alerted you to the fact that Google’s harmless little Street View cars had been tootling around the suburban areas of Germany, secretly picking up the MAC addresses and SSIDs from residents’ wireless networks.

But Google reassured everyone that it was all just a piece of good, harmless knockabout fun – no one was getting impaled on any spikes and that “The data which we collect is used to provide location-based services within Google products and to users of the Geolocation API. For example, users of Google Maps for Mobile can turn on ‘My Location’ to identify their approximate location based on cell towers and Wi-Fi access points which are visible to their device.”

Cool – and most of you who commented agreed, pointing out that the info Google were collecting was being publicly transmitted and that there’s nothing sinister about Google harvesting it like data-sucking cyber-leeches.

But uh oh, what’s this? It turns out that the Street View cars have ALSO been inadvertently recording short bursts of people’s internet activity while they tootled by. Shitting Ada!

When Google’s data harvest was analysed in Hamburg, it transpired that it included 'payload data' - the content of IP packets - as well as the harmless little MACs and SSIDs. Google went a bit red before explaining that one of their boffins had added the payload data capability to an experimental version of Street View four years ago and then forgot to remove it. WELL WE’VE ALL DONE IT AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER!

Peter Barron, a spokesman for Google, said: “We didn't want to collect this data in the first place and we would like to destroy it as soon as possible,” before adding, “Look! A dog with a puffy tail!” and then running away when everyone turned around to see it. Probably. Now it looks as though Google could have some explaining to do to authorities in the USA and Germany – and that could just be for starters.

Meanwhile, The Onion seems to have some exclusive Google news...


New Google Phone Service Whispers Targeted Ads Directly Into Users' Ears

TOPICS:   Technology

7 comments

  • TeflonMan
    It keeps getting better: German news website ard.de reports today that the streetview cars have also been laser-scanning house fronts - according to google this is to get realistic 3D maps. Time somebody pulled the plug on google!
  • MyOtherUserNameIsAFerrari
    Theyd better not Laser Scan my fucking house!!
  • Allen
    Posted by MyOtherUserNameIsAFerrari | May 18th, 2010 at 4:09 pm Theyd better not Laser Scan my fucking house!! Who the fuck wants to Laser Scan a cardboard box?
  • Brian's U.
    Google, fast becoming the most evil company in the world, followed by Facebook
  • One t.
    Are Google moderating comments like BW does?
  • Mr G.
    Was that Google saying they would destroy unwanted data? Yet they proudly announce that they have never destroyed any data they have collected. Not even those browsing records from your "Animal Farm" period ten years ago...
  • brendan
    If Google want to scan my house with LiDAR and make a 3D model, they are more than welcome to. And once again, mobile laser scanners have been scanning streets for years.

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