Roll over Google – you’ve been caught out again. The search engine giant could face legal action after it was found ‘unintentionally’ collecting private wi-fi data during its Street View tours.
Google has recorded sensitive data in more than 30 countries, including the UK and Ireland, on its Street View expeditions. With cars cruising past our homes, its taken 3D snaps and collected location data for its online map service.
At first Google was criticised for snapping members of the public unawares, whether sunbathing or love-making. But now attention has turned to its accumulation of data from unsecured wireless networks. Data that includes private emails, browsing history, passwords and even banking details. Naughty, naughty.
Google professes innocence
The search engine giant claims it was collecting wi-fi network data to help track business locations, but it unintentionally picked up info transmitted by open networks.
After an investigation by the German government, Google fluttered its puppy-dog eyes and apologised for its ‘accidental’ actions, but admitted it had ‘failed badly’.
France’s privacy watchdog CNIL found that Google gathered data – some contravening banking and medical privacy rules – over two years. While CNIL mulls over taking legal action, London’s Metropolitan Police has just launched an investigation to settle whether laws have been breached here.
Google plans to delete all wrongly collected wi-fi data asap – if requested by authorities. However, Privacy International, the UK’s independent privacy advocacy group, says this would ‘constitute destruction of evidence’.
Instead, PI says, all data should be stored securely until Google has resolved legal enquiries.
Secure your network
This invasion of our wi-fi networks highlights the danger of failing to secure them properly. If Google can access passwords in this way, imagine how easily a hacker could retrieve your info and mis-use it.
It’s essential to secure your personal broadband network and our guide to online security can help. Otherwise, not only could your data be stolen, your network could be used to share files illegally – leaving you potentially liable to copyright infringement.
As for Google, Privacy International doubts that the harvesting was accidental, questioning how the company could have missed such a large accumulation of extra data.
What’s clear is that Google will be coming under a lot of pressure over these impish actions, whether it recorded our data innocently or not.