The street view cars not only shoot the street scene, they turn out the be scene stealers.
The BBC reports that a German government audit of data collected by Google’s street view cars revealed that some of the software used in collecting street view data has been grabbing payload data from open wireless networks for three years. Google claims it was inadvertent:
Google said the problem dated back to 2006 when “an engineer working on an experimental wi-fi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast wi-fi data”.
That code was included in the software the Street View cars used and “quite simply, it was a mistake”, said Mr Eustace.
“This incident highlights just how publicly accessible, open, non-password protected wi-fi networks are today.”
Dan Kaminsky, director of penetration testing for security firm Ioactive, said there was no intent by Google.
At this point there is no evidence any of the information was accessible through Google’s search engines.
The article quotes several consumer advocates who seem to agree that there is no deep dark Google plot here, though one suggests that Google’s engineers are so used to “pushing the envelope” that they sometimes forget about the privacy implications of what they do.
Given Google’s track record, which is pretty good at not using persons’ data to take advantage of them, I’m inclined to accept Google’s apology.
Nevertheless, I shall continue to password protect everything.
Furthermore, my sympathy for persons who fail to secure their networks is tempered by their recklessness. Ignorance really isn’t an excuse–anyone who plans to use a tool should read the safety rules first.