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Ear to the Ground

Google Admits Data Audit Accusation

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Posted on May 15, 2010
Flickr / Swerz

A Google Maps car in New York City.

In an announcement following a data audit by Germany’s data protection authority, Google has admitted to accidentally sampling payload data from open Wi-Fi networks as its Google Maps mobiles traversed the globe’s streets.

Payload data, which is the raw data that is transferred across networks, was recorded—allegedly unknowingly by Google Maps vehicles—as Google was taking photos of streets and capturing landscapes for 3-D modeling, as well as recording Wi-Fi network names and identifiers for routers. —JCL

The Guardian:

Google has been accidentally gathering extracts of personal web activity from domestic wifi networks through the Street View cars it has used since 2007, it said last night.

It was discovered as a result of a data audit demanded by Germany’s data protection authority, and is likely to inflame critics of Google concerned about the web giant’s use of private data.

As well as systematically photographing streets and gathering 3D images of cities and towns around the world, Google’s Street View cars are fitted with antennas that scan local wifi networks and use the data for its location services.

In a post on its European Public Policy blog on 27 April, Google stated that although it does gather wifi network names (SSIDs) and identifiers (Mac addresses) for devices like network routers, it does not gather “payload” data passed through those wifi networks.

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