FTC drops Google Street View Wi-Fi sniffing fiasco

By on October 28, 2010, 7:30 AM
The US Federal Trade Commission has officially closed its investigation (PDF) into Google for collecting data from unsecured wireless networks. The search company announced in May that its Street View vehicles inadvertently collected information from unencrypted Wi-Fi connections, including passwords and entire emails. Google recently apologized for the mistake in a blog post and outlined the changes it's made to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Google has appointed a director of privacy to oversee the company's products and practices. It's also "enhancing" privacy training for engineers, product managers and its legal team, focusing on "the responsible collection, use and handling of data." Additionally, Google employees will undertake an "information security awareness program" starting this December. The company will also require engineering project leaders to maintain a privacy design document to record how user data is handled. That document will be reviewed regularly by manager as well as an independent audit team.

User Comments: 23

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Neojt said:

Well this is good news.

Maybe it will teach peaple not to leave there doors unlocked.

Kamugisha said:

We learn from mistakes, isn't it? Think google has survived this one and come out a winner.

j05hh j05hh said:

secure your wifi people!!

jenifleo said:

It sounds like Google is doing job. Too bad it took the FTC to make them aware of it.Funny story one day at work we used the service to see a coworkers house and the company vehicle was parked in front of his house. We caught him using it for taking a lunch break at his house. He was floored had nothing but red on his face.

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Of course this isn't something to blame owners for, but they certainly should have their wireless connections with security. There is some lack of technological education among a lot of people.

drasho said:

I guess people learned a lesson from this... probably not =) You can still find atleast one unsecure wifi per appartments =P

bugejakurt said:

Google: "Upps.... Sorry but we incidentely stole passwords, emails and other personal information from unsecured WiFis along our Google Street View journey."

Mistake? Is this an incident? I mean passwords and emails from unsecured WiFis need a bit of a hack to retrieve them, even from unsecured WiFis. People if even Google spied on your personal information, how much of this information is spied on the net? Security should be the top consideration especially for businesses and also other web surfers.

frodough said:

this is hardly entirely google's fault. in a world where advanced gadgets used by eggheads and ****** who thinks adding password is a hassle should be deserved to have their unsecured data taken away by anyone! comon ppl you dont just turn on a wifi and call it a day that's like crack up a car and walk away leaving the door open - eventually (however long it maybe) someone or something will get inside if not take a test drive. same principle - you lock a car, you should also secure a wifi.

Zecias said:

who doesn't secure their wifi?...

xcelofjkl said:

I read an article that digitial security is behind when it comes to development in the computing field. Now it's becoming apparent.

TwiztidSef said:

I believe it was an accident. Its possible that the equipment they used to take or send the photos got the information. This probably happened because google is expanding into different areas too quickly. Their planning their own fiber network, releasing a netbook and phone os, making changes to their site, and whatever else they have cooked up.

Other than this and that buzz thing, i don't see where google has made any real missteps. Even that 411 service helped them out quite a bit.

Afroaggie said:

Heh, I only assume that google knows anything they want to know about me since I use their email service, their calendar service, and their search engine. With any info they can pull off of that they can pretty much paint an accurate picture of my life.

bosec said:

It suprises me how many people leave there wireless unprotected, in the appartment complex i live in there are 12 out of 23 that are unprotected. I also wonder how often they would refresh the wifi data as I notice new and disappearing wifi connections around me.

thedrelle said:

The problem is that most people don't even notice that their wireless networks need securing. These devices are too easy to set up and dont exactly notify thier users that they are not secure.

buttus said:

At least Google is trying to uphold their "do no evil" company motto.

codefeenix codefeenix said:

It is not Google's fault that people do not use secure networks.

dawgtothebone said:

Wow,I'm actually surprised Google is implementing systems to improve privacy awareness amongst their engineers.I don't believe many companies ,if any, would have taken extra steps to implement awareness as Google is doing and then take extra steps such as auditing their privacy practices e.t.c.

To me,unsecured wi-fi networks is comparable to talking loudly on the phone while on a bus/train,one doesn't expect others to go deaf.It is understood that ppl around this person would hear the conversation - In the same way wireless routers can always pick up unsecured wireless networks.

@ bugejakurt, I agree that it can be initially a process to remove whole passwords and emails.I also don't believe everything I read on the news.What if the street view cars picked up certain packets and sent them off to to Google's data centers.I wouldn't be surprised if some of the data i.e. emails,passwords is complete and the majority are fragmented considering that there are more than 6 billion ppl in the world.

After thinking about it for a little while,Google is taking appropriate steps to prevent a major privacy disaster in the future for which they could be taken down for in all seriousness. Good on you Google for implementing best practices after encountering an incident which initially wasn't Google's fault. This says a lot about Google as a company.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Definitely not a surprised since studies conducted didn't really show significant data stolen. However if this was a serious issue I feel the FTC would have come to the same conclusion. Either way it didn't really make much sense to me considering Google has its own e-mail server it can snoop on anytime and is known to keeping deleted emails.

codefeenix said:

It is not Google's fault that people do not use secure networks.

"Officer, it's not my fault my neighbor left his door unlocked."

It's still Google's fault and was wrong what they did, however out of all the privacy issues they have this one really seemed unintentional. Looking at all the things they knowingly do or did that could compromise privacy this one was a dumb thing to go after. And Eric Schmidt isn't exactly helping their imagine in this regard.

Cryptopsy said:

Well if you don't secure yourself, no one will do for you... and its not the first time that a company keep personal information of you, just think about facebook... When you subscribe to facebook, the terms of service include that ALL information uploaded on their site is their priority.. think of that (for those who'd like to get protected against this, watch 'facebook disconnect' - a chrome extension)

princeton princeton said:

Here's an idea...

LOCK YOUR ******* WIFI YOU ******!

oasis789 said:

dont be evil, google.

AbsolutGaloot said:

This just discourages people from leaving their wifi open for stranded travelers to access while they are waiting for their internet to get set up at their new accommodations. Sadness.

kaonis92 said:

People deserved that for leaving them unsecured! They should teach the dangers of unsecured wifi's in schools!

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