Google under investigation

June 10th, 2010 at 7:31 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police are investigating allegations that computer giant illegally gathered personal email and wireless internet data during its “Street View” operation in New Zealand. …

Representatives of the police and the Commissioner met yesterday to discuss Google’s possible breach of the Crimes Act after concerns were expressed about reports it had collected WiFi information while photographing houses and streets with 3D cameras for Street View, its online mapping service.

Google has acknowledged it collected fragments of data over public WiFi networks in more than 30 countries, though it is not known what kind of information was involved.

This is key. If all Google did was collect SSIDs, then I can’t see how that is a breach of the Crimes Act. If they were somehow accessing the data going over a wireless network, then there could be issues.

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11 Responses to “Google under investigation”

  1. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    i am stuggling to see what the issue is with finding out the names/ids of wireless networks, i can find out the name of all the networks in range of my house with no effort either (and who has no security on thier network!).

    very different if they are somehow intercepting data.

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  2. hellonearthis (8 comments) says:

    SSID’s can be hidden and Google didn’t collect any hidden SSID information. So I think your so right it’s not a crime. I did here that they collected a little more data from “public” WiFi networks, ones that not only had their SSID’s on display but also had no passwords, a true public Wifi that anyone in range could connect to and use to surf the internet, that would be a criminal as reading a magazine cover to cover at a public library. It’s a bit of a waste of police resources getting investigated, but it would be good to get the matter cleared up for all those who don’t have a clue as to what google did.

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  3. mjwilknz (605 comments) says:

    Does it appear to anyone else that Google is just the next Microsoft? It seems to me there’s an awful lot a guilty-until-proven-innocent going on here.

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  4. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    mjwilknz said…
    Google is just the next Microsoft

    So, what had Microsoft done wrong, either today or in the past? In fact they’ve done nothing wrong. The anti-trust law (against Microsoft) was in fact wrong, ie, violation of property rights.

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  5. mrjames (1 comment) says:

    Okay, there are two things going on here.

    Yes, Google did collect the SSID and MAC address of the wireless networks while it was taking pictures for street view. Google collect this information for location purposes – say if your using Google Maps on your mobile device and can’t get enough GPS signal, Google could use the SSID and MAC address of the neighborhood wireless networks to estimate your location.

    Google has admitted that they inadvertently have collected unencrypted wireless traffic as it was going across the air. Big deal. It was probably just a byproduct of the wireless scanning software they were using (and not a direct attempt at stealing your data). If the street view car was travelling at 20km/h any wireless network would only be within range for a very short period of time anyway, and the value of data inside the data packets would have limited value compared to your search history (which Google already have).

    As people have already said, using an unencrypted network is like talking on the street – anyone who is around you can hear you.

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  6. virtualmark (1,531 comments) says:

    Falafulu Fisi,

    I agree with you, although not many would. Have you ever read “Winners, losers & Microsoft”? Fantastic book addressing anti-trust issues in general and Microsoft’s in particular.

    And an obvious question: If Microsoft was so wrong to bundle IE for free with Windows then how is it okay for Apple to bundle Safari for free with OS X? Likewise with WMP/Windows and Quicktime/OS X? (Disclosure: I’m a Mac user, and I never had any problem with what Microsoft or Apple are doing)

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  7. jcuknz (704 comments) says:

    Surely if you transmit something by a public network/service and it is not encoded then it is not a crime for somebody to pick it up, possibly a crime by the person transmitting depending on subject matter. You get these silly disclaimers on the bottom of emails saying for you not to take notice of the message if it was not for you …. geez! If you display yourself to the public eye it is, or should be in a sane world, not a crime to be watched, for the watcher.

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  8. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Here is an excellent argument (political/philosophical) of why anti-trust is wrong.

    Drop the Antitrust Case Against Microsoft

    Some would argue and say, it is what the law says, therefore just toe the line. In a totalitarian system (North Korea, Cuba), their laws are appalling, ie, no respect at all for individual rights (& property rights). In those countries, people just abide with them (even they’re wrong), simply because their dictators say so. Anti-trust is a violation of those property rights.

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  9. mjwilknz (605 comments) says:

    Falafulu Fisi, sorry, I did not mean to suggest that the case against Microsoft was sound or appropriate. On the contrary, it looked to me to be a sham hatched because Microsoft had been “too successful” at satisfying consumers need and therefore must be guilty of something: never mind the details, let someone else worry about that!

    The case against Google looks to have a whole bunch of parallels. The case currently against it also looks complex to understand. But they’re large and successful; they must have down something wrong. Let someone else worry about the details.

    Like I said, guilty until proven innocent!

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  10. mjwilknz (605 comments) says:

    Falafulu Fisi, sorry, I did not mean to suggest that the case against Microsoft was either sound or appropriate for the public good. On the contrary, it looked to me to be a sham hatched because Microsoft had been “too successful” at satisfying consumers’ needs and therefore must be guilty of something: never mind the details, let someone else worry about them!

    The case against Google looks to have a whole bunch of parallels. It also looks very complex to understand. But Google is large and successful so it must have down something wrong. Let someone else worry about the details.

    Like I said, guilty until proven innocent!

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  11. Jules Jewel (36 comments) says:

    If owners of ADSL router/modems are stupid enough not to hide their SIDD then they deserve all they get.
    Same goes for connections with no security.
    I know of teenagers who do not need to pay for Wireless broadband, they just logon to the best unsecured network – and there are a supprising number of them. It is of course, theft, but when owners do not take elementary precautions then they are stupid.

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