Sunday, October 24, 2010

Google: "Big Brother" Update

When your pal is not necessarily your friend...
Google has admitted for the first time its "Street View" cars have collected more personal data globally than previously revealed, including complete emails and passwords! At this stage it's unknown just how many people may have been affected.
The disclosure comes just days after Canada claimed Google had collected complete emails, and accused Google of violating the rights of thousands of its citizens. France, Germany, USA and Spain, among others, promptly opened investigations.
In May this year I posted that Google's "Street View" cars collected data from unsecured wireless networks in over 30 countries. At the time, Google said the information was limited to only "fragments" of unencrypted data, because its cars were always moving and because their wireless equipment automatically changed channels about five times a second (back then, Google also said that it was sorry - which of course makes it all ok, right?).
Google wants to delete the captured data as soon as possible: it has already deleted it in countries where regulators gave permission. Investigations in six countries including New Zealand have closed - but continue elsewhere, so Google can't delete the data until those conclude. 
This accidental (unproven) collection by a "benign" operator is a good illustration of how vulnerable unsecured networks can be. Imagine what information could be collected by a malignant hacker!
PS: 14 Dec.2010Google apologises to NZ for privacy breaches.

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