Between May 2007 and 2010, Google gobbled up enormous amounts of Wi-Fi data, when it actually set out to capture street-view images. This has been the hottest case of privacy breach in the last decade. For a company that believes in “don’t be evil”, Google made a terrible mistake in doing this. The mishap was discovered by European data-protection authorities. Initially, Google claimed that capturing Wi-Fi data would let it improve location-based services. When under some more pressure, Google jumped in with a clarification, saying it collected only fragments of data. Though finally, in 2010, Google acknowledged that it collected entire payloads from Wi-Fi networks with all kinds of personal data (emails, passwords, internet usage data and alike).
The case has been under investigation, and recently, Google has released an FCC report, where it holds a rogue engineer liable for capturing payload off Wi-Fi networks. The engineer in question wrote a code to capture Wi-Fi data and put it into the Street View code. However, the engineer was not available for talks as he invoked his Fifth Amendment right and refused to comment.
The FCC report also talks of other people at Google who were aware of the intentions of this engineer. The engineer drafted a proposal of his work and presented it to the Street View team in October 2006. Now, managers of the Street View team claim that they never read the document presented to them by the engineer! To add to the confusion, a second engineer who did a peer code review for our rogue engineer’s Street View code found no mechanism to capture Wi Fi data.
Nonetheless, Google has come out of this investigation clean. The FCC declared that Google did not capture Wi Fi data illegally, but fined Google for $25,000 for stalling the investigation.
After thoroughly reviewing the existing record in this investigation and applicable law, the Bureau has decided not to take enforcement action against Google for violation of Section 705(a). There is no Commission precedent addressing the application of Section 705(a) in connection with Wi-Fi communications.
Read the full report on the FCC investigation.
(Via: LA Times)
Just around the end of last month, Google had announced the start of it’s Street View project in India. Street Viewis one of the many projects from Google that lets you check out places around the world with the help of 360-degree street-level images from Google Maps. However, Street View has already come under the scanner of various governments across the world.
The Street View project has now fallen prey to the eyes of the Indian Government as well. When Google started this in Bangalore, India last month, we were quite skeptical about it’s operation in the country. Now it turns out that Google did not even secure the necessary clearance required for filming the streets in Bangalore.
Google has already procured a fleet of Chevrolet Captiva SUVs and tri-cycles with special rotating cameras atop in order to film and take photographs of the streets. The Bangalore police is concerned because there are many military institutions in the city and making available such data online would pose security threats to these areas.
Google has already confirmed that the “Street View” project has been suspended as they have received a letter from Bangalore’s police commissioner ask to do so. Not only India, Google has faced serious obstacles in implementing this project in other countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Brazil.
“Street View” is one of the many projects from Google that lets you check out places around the world with the help of 360-degree street-level images. This feature is available inside Google Maps. Street View has already been under the scanner of various Govt. agencies in the 27 countries where the service is currently available. Google has now announced the launch of the “Street View” service in India too.
“Street View” will debut in Bengaluru and after which it will make it’s way into other major Indian cities. However, you won’t be able to see any imagery as of now as the service has just been started in India and Google will have to take pictures and compile the database first. Once the collection process is over, the entire city of Bengaluru will be available on your desktop or mobile device!
Here is an image of some vehicles from Google Street View’s fleet of vehicles which will used to scan the images of various parts of the city. In the image you can see a tricycle and two Chevrolet Captiva SUVs. Note the special camera at the top of the vehicles which will be used to capture the images.
Via Google India Blog
After a controversial road-trip, Google street view is now treading into parks, historical places, gardens and all sorts of public places. The street-view camera has now been mounted on a tricycle, which people are readily driving around at these places. This is one such tricycle as appears on dailymail.co.uk.
Given the new hierarchical level Street View just entered, I would say, Google Street view lovers are going to super-love it and those who hate it, are going berserk by now. This brings Google Street view to unexplored destinations of the digitally augmented real world. The tricycle has a camera mounted at a height of 7 feet giving it the perspective of a walking human being. This will be different from Street view cars, cameras in which are usually mounted higher up, or so it seems.
Google has hired local football players and athletes to drive around these tricycles and do its dirty work. Google was accused of collecting private user-data through Wi-Fi networks while using these cameras and it had agreed to delete the data too.
Access to public places like parks, monuments and other key locations gives Google more possibilities to explore public places. Given the fact that the Street View service is not a direct source of revenue, we should look at the brighter side and give this attempt the due respect before crying foul.
Google Street View has been a bane of controversy since it launched. There have been several lawsuits and investigations against Street View in both the United States and other countries too.
In a recent court case against Google, a Pittsburgh couple claimed that Google had trespassed on their privacy by taking a photo of their house through the Street View service. However, Google was let away with an admission of guilt and $1 as compensation for the couple.
According to Associated Press, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Cathy Bissoon on Thursday signed off on a consent judgment, a mutually agreed-upon verdict, between the Mountain View, Calif. company and Aaron and Christine Boring, of Franklin Park.
Another Google product, Google Maps has also been in controversy rows several times with Google displaying incorrect borders between countries among other things. However, there was also a comical lawsuit about a woman suing Google for giving her bad directions, which was apparently thrown own.
Google was pleased with the verdict and the fact that they were only made to pay $1. However, there might be several more litigations coming their way considering how controversial their service has been. Nonetheless, the service is also very useful when it comes to finding information or navigating an area and though it is controversial it is definitely something which is really helpful for drivers.
The French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) has finally confirmed that data captured by Google Street View cars had usernames and passwords. This puts Google at a high level of scrutiny and Google has been criticized widely for this.
Google, which started to collect data to improve its location service also collected private user data and tried to cover it up by making up stuff like “it was collecting only fragments of data” and other tech jargon to confuse people. Though, we know the better of these claims.
This investigation has laid the foundation for many further investigations to be carried out in Spain and Germany. Germany in particularly, has not been very friendly to Google and Google should gear up for some serious allegations.
Google has a database from thirty such countries and most countries, when came to know of this, asked Google to delete the data. Some others though, wanted Google to keep the data and investigate into it.
Google should be extra careful from now on. No wonder it has made life easier for all, though, this has also earned it scrutinizers who are much more interested in what goes on behind the scene.
We all know that Google Street View cars collect much more than just roadways photos. It was later revealed that the street view cars collected personal payload data from unencrypted wifi networks to check for and tag collected data by location.
In short, if you are sending an email from an unencrypted wifi network and a Google Street View car passes buy, there is a good chance the car has collected a copy of your email too. Germany was the first one to speak against this and reveal the matter of personal data collection, something even Google did not know!
Now, Google has called this a mistake and has said,
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.
Google is making serious amendments to make thing right and is starting by coming clean about what happened. This will gain it some trust and help it mend the tainted image it has created for itself in some countries.
Google has also revealed plans to switch to an encrypted version of Google search and has already put an end to Google Street View Cars.