Google’s mission to map the world onto its Street View application came with a little mishap – it inadvertently took data from unprotected networks. It’s now been discovered that this included emails and passwords.
Google is once again in the firing line. The company first admitted to accidentally gathering our data during its Street View tour in June of this year. Its van’s little antenna was only meant to collect the locations and names of the world’s Wi-Fi networks in order to help sell targeted ads.
But this had a turn for the worse when the company admitted to accidentally gathering data from networks that weren’t password protected (there’s a lesson for ya).
In the end the UK’s privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), let Google off as the data trawled was said be a big scrambled mess.
Google harvested emails, passwords and URLs
At the time opinions on Which? Convo were divisive, with Richard Kinley saying, ‘Zzzz. Where’s the evidence that anyone has been harmed by this?’ Commenter ‘Evil C’ disagreed, adding a staunch warning, ‘Ordinary people who think this is pie in the sky are deluding themselves!’
He may have been right, since it’s now emerged that complete email addresses, passwords and website URLs were copied. Google is apparently ‘mortified’ at the revelation and has admitted it ‘failed badly’.
But these words may not save them, as ICO has decided to look into the case once again. Which raises the question – why didn’t ICO properly investigate this first time around? Did the UK’s privacy watchdog let us down by simply checking sample data provided by Google itself?
Should Google be punished?
Nevertheless, Google could face a fine of up to £500,000, which may not be too much for a company that’s been accused of dodging £2bn in taxes.
The company stopped collecting Wi-Fi data quite some time ago, and it wants to delete the 600 gigabytes of data as soon as possible. This is something that Privacy International thinks could constitute the destruction of evidence.
Do you think Google should get a slap on the wrist for this invasion of privacy? And do you still trust the company that once used the slogan ‘Don’t be evil’? Whatever the case, since all the data was collected from unencrypted networks, this does highlight the importance of securing your Wi-Fi with a solid and unwavering password.