A new counter-terrorism document published by the British home secretary Theresa May has revealed how terrorist organizations like the Al-Qaida are exploiting the internet. According to the 123-page counter-terror report, last year, a special unit – called the Tariq bin Ziyad Brigades for Electronic Jihad, was established to attack computers.
Besides attempting to invade Facebook and spreading propaganda through websites, terrorists are now taking advantage of the internet to plan and co-ordinate attacks. Google Earth and Street View are two tools that were singled out by the report. Back in 2005, India’s then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had warned that Google Earth poses a security risk. Several other countries including South Korea and the Netherlands had also expressed concern. In fact, Indian security agencies believe that Google Earth was employed by the terrorists behind the shocking 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008.
Street View is a relatively new addition to Google’s mapping tools, which provides highly detailed on-the-ground pictures of any location that has been mapped. It has already run into trouble the European Union and several countries including India, Australia, and Germany due to allegations of snooping and privacy violations. The latest revelations will probably strengthen the opposition against this controversial project.
Being one of the largest tech companies is a hard job and you inherently gather some animosity from around the world. Make one mistake and you will have a thousand fingers pointing at you. Google knows this fact the best.
Up until now, Google has admitted only to have collected chunks of data, which might contain passwords or usernames but has termed this as an unintentional process. However, the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) has insisted that Google has done more than that.
Today, Google has admitted for the first time that its Street View cars actually collected usernames and passwords. This will fuel the investigations in France and Germany that might have gone stagnant over time. This disclosure was made after Canada’s blamed Google of stealing full usernames and password data. This was followed by an investigation by thirty state attorneys who are investigating the matter further. In short, Google is fighting a one-man battle against the world.
Google Vice President of Engineering and Research Alan Eustace expressed his concern in a blog post saying,
It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords.
I find Google Street View to be an awesome feature and have used it on more than once instance to check out cool avenues and streets. The complete data is estimated at over 600 GB and Google is assuring users that it will delete the private data soon but that can be possible only after the all the investigations are complete.
After Germany alleged Google for stealing personal payload data from open Wi-fi networks, Australia has followed suit and has announced a police investigation against Google.
The allegation is quite the same as previous one, whether Google stealed private information when using Google Street view cars to collect images of streets, buildings and landmarks.
When asked regarding the earlier allegation by Germany, Google officials acknowledged
It was an accident. It’s now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) WiFi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products.
Australian investigators are concerned over the countries privacy issues and they are doubtful whether the street view photographs taken by Google, violated the countries privacy laws. Australian federal attorney general Robert McClelland said:
In light of concerns having been raised by the public, my department thought there were issues of substance that were raised that require police investigation
The investigators are now busy collecting data whether Google breached the countries telecommunication system act, which prevents people as well as organizations to access electronic communications without proper consent from the respective authorities.
Last month, Australian communication minister Mr Stephen Conroy said “It is the single greatest breach in the history of privacy”