Ep 20 of 2010
May 17, 2010
Last week it was Adobe and Apple hogging the tech limelight, this week it’s Google’s turn with the accusation of Wi-Fi sniffing from the camera cars used to collect images for Google’s street view project. The BBC has reported that Google has admitted that for the past three years it has wrongly collected information people have sent over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.
The issue came to light after German authorities asked to audit the data the company's Street View cars gathered as they took photos viewed on Google maps. Google said during a review it found it had "been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open networks" which will now increase concerns about potential privacy breaches.
The data collected could include parts of an email, text or photograph or even the website someone may be viewing. In a blogpost Google said as soon as it became aware of the problem it grounded its Street View cars from collecting wi-fi information and segregated the data on its network.
Back home in Australia, the ABC has reported a similar story with Geordie Guy, the vice-chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia highlighting the fact that every wireless device has it’s own unique serial number. Geordie went on to say “They (Google) may not be able to tell which house, or which side of the road it's on, but they'll be able to map where those are”
The office of Australia's privacy commissioner Karen Curtis responded in a statement that their preliminary inquiries had indicated generally that the information about Wi-Fi networks that Google is collecting would probably not on its own be considered personal information under the Privacy Act.
Storm in a tea cup? Maybe, but the sheer fact that global citizens are exposing themselves to all manor of prying, either by the likes of Google, or any other passer buy, means that they must assumes some level of responsibility.
According to the BBC, 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"
"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 who was recently on Tech Talk Radio, said there was no intent by Google. He was reported to say that "This information was leaking out and they picked it up. If you are going to broadcast your email on an open Wi-Fi, don't be surprised if someone picks it up."
This week on TTR
HTC tries to block iPhone, iPad and iPod sales in the US,
Adam Turner takes a look at the ongoing Flash debacle
Telstra ups the speed between Melbourne and Sydney, and
iiNet is off to the courts again with AFACT over Copyright issues that just won’t go away.