Google Admits to Collecting Private Data from Unsecured WiFi

Brad Stone at the New York Times has the story, an admission by the search giant that has come to light as a result of recent scrutiny over privacy issues in the EU. The gaffe was inadvertent, Google explains, a software glitch in its Street View project. I credit Google’s admission of the problem and their promise to not only halt the project until it can be addressed but also to scrub the data they should not have been collecting in the first place.

What I find concerning is that this data collection had apparently been going on for the space of a few years. How could Google accurately claim prior to this that they weren’t collecting any data from WiFi networks they were scanning to aid in their mapping efforts? Even if they weren’t using the data in any of their services, wouldn’t someone notice the storage used to hold the actual data? The data is clearly stored if they are talking about how best to delete it. How did that escape everyone’s notice?

I won’t dog pile on Google any further. As I said, they seem earnest in their claims to be addressing the issue. They’ll take their lumps, as they did with the flubbed Buzz launch, from any and all of the privacy advocates and public interest groups concerned with privacy. I hope at some point that they will truly absorb and internalize the need for privacy considerations at the outset of a project, much like the related need to do the same with security.

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