Oops! Google does it again – this time its apologising for collecting Wi-Fi data via ts Street View cars!

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Google has issued an apology after complaints that its Street View cars had collected samples of British householders Wi-Fi browsing without their knowledge. The breach of privacy happened whilst the Street View cars were driving by open (i.e. insecure) wi-fi networks whilst taking pictures for Google’s Street View map service.

After initially trying to brush off accusations of foul play, Google has now admitted that it “failed badly” and that it was all a big mistake. According to Google’s Head of Engineering and Research, Alan Eustace, its Street View vehicles had been grounded and they are working on deleting the data as soon as possible, claiming Google had acted as soon it became aware there was a problem.

However, it only became aware that there was an issue following a request by the German Data Protection Authority for an audit of all Wi-Fi data collected by the vehicles. In April, the DPA revealed that the data was being collected by Google. Google’s initial response was to deny there was an issue at all but they later retracted this original statement. None of this helps Google’s reputation and its desire to be seen as the company that ‘does no evil’. Certainly, following on from the controversy over its Buzz service and in light of press articles about Facebook‘s privacy policy, it highlights once again that consumers need to be vigilant about their online privacy. It’s also a reminder that we should make sure our Wi-Fi networks are as secure as possible, certainly, not having even WEP security is a to be avoided, though the more secure WPA/WPA2 is preferable.

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