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Google Audits Street View Data Systems

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the we-meant-to-do-that dept.

Google 229

schliz writes "Google's plans to upgrade to high-definition Street View in Australia are on hold until it completes a rigorous internal audit of the processes, it announced today. The company is currently being investigated by international regulators about possible privacy breaches when it became known that its Street View vehicles were capturing not only publicly available SSIDs and MAC addresses, but also samples of payload data transmitted over these networks."

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google this (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335272)

Ohoh

Anonymous Coward (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335286)

Google is Skynet.

this is gonna be interesting (3, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335294)

I'm really looking forward to the comments. When BP lets the oil spill continue day after day, the /. crowd goes asking why we let them handle it at all, after all they're the ones responsible for the mess.

Now Google has a mess, and is doing an internal audit. I'm curious if we will apply the same reasoning, or a different standard. And what justifications we'll see for it.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (4, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335376)

Simple.

We trust Google more than we do BP.

Personally, I think for a good reason too.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335436)

Simple.

We trust Google more than we do BP.

Sucker!

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335552)

Perhaps you trust Google more than BP.

Don't apply that to everyone here.

Compared to Google, BP is the mom and pop grocery on the corner.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (5, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335592)

Compared to Google, BP is the mom and pop grocery on the corner.

In what world do you live in? BP is a $246 billion dollar global energy company. In comparison, Google is a dinky little $24 billion dollar company. Not to mention how BP has 4.5 times as many employees. One can go on and on about how your characterization is plainly wrong.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335630)

Also to add, BP is consistently ranked as either the 4th or 5th largest company in the world. Google doesn't even rank in the top 100 (most recent rankings put them in the 150s).

Re:this is gonna be interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335686)

BP is a group of idiots with money.

Google is a group of geeks with money.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335622)

I don't trust EITHER of them.

I just trust the government(s) less (almost 100 million of its owncitizens killed in the last century). For example, I don't want the German or EU government demanding copies of Google's hard drives and peering through our private data. Who knows what they use it for? During WW2 data was used to imprison millions of Americans who had done nothing wrong.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335656)

I agree, the government should not be trusted with that kind of data, but how would you feel about government regulation and oversight of data collection and retention practices and policies?

Re:this is gonna be interesting (2)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335942)

Government regulatory agencies sound good in theory, but in reality they are often mere puppets of the corporations that bribe them, so they don't work.

I'd rather see Google's corporate license revoked. Let them operate as a proprietorship whose owner(s) have full liability for his company's actions, and then I can sue the bastard in court for theft of my data. Or even better - boycott the company and drive them into bankruptcy (as happened to Circuit City).

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336148)

So you would argue that government regulation is completely useless in all instances? I'm no fan of the government either, it always screws everything up and is totally in the pocket of all of the various lobbyists. But at the same time, the incentives that exist for private corporations (and individuals) can lead them to do things that are just way not in the interests of the larger group. What do you do in those situations if not government regulation?

Re:this is gonna be interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335420)

Uh, maybe I don't understand how data works but ...

it seems to me that Google can tell someone to do "rm -rf /data/captured-info/" and the same on backups.

BP has a bit of a bigger problem.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1, Insightful)

asukasoryu (1804858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335428)

I think the consequences are a little different. Google's data gathering isn't destroying the Earth.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335598)

>>>Google's data gathering isn't destroying the Earth.

Neither will an oil spill destroy the Earth. In fact about the only thing that would destroy the earth is the sun going supersized, or a black hole skimming by & tearing the planet apart. The earth is hard to destroy..... even when an asteroid hit the planet, the earth continued merrily on and life recovered. Nothing mankind could do would destroy the earth.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335740)

>>>Google's data gathering isn't destroying the Earth.

Neither will an oil spill destroy the Earth. In fact about the only thing that would destroy the earth is the sun going supersized, or a black hole skimming by & tearing the planet apart. The earth is hard to destroy..... even when an asteroid hit the planet, the earth continued merrily on and life recovered. Nothing mankind could do would destroy the earth.

Fine it can't destroy Earth, but it can destroy a large part of it's ecosystems.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336012)

Large? The Gulf is actually quite small compared to the Earth. For example the animals living along Maine's coast have no clue there's an oil spill happening. Also let's not forget that prior to 1800, it was common for the Earth to "belch" oil all over the place, creating giant pools of oil both on land and in the ocean. On his journey to Philadelphia as first president, Washington had to detour around several tarpits (oil) to get there.

That was the natural state of the world, until man came along and cleaned it up. It helps if you study history instead of hyperbole.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (2, Informative)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336100)

Last I heard the oil spill was about to hit the Atlantic ocean currents. (of course I may be wrong)

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336126)

This oil leak wont destroy "a large part of [the earths] ecosystem" tho.

I am amazed by the alarmism. 210,000 gallons per day isnt unprecedented. It will take 50 days to equal the amount spilled by Exxon's Valdez (over 10 million gallons) and while that had an environmental impact, it didn't destroy a large part of the earths ecosystem. In fact its effects were more or less localized and didnt destroy anything. Some animal populations in the area took a big hit, but we are not aware of even a single extinction caused by the disaster.

Yes it sucks that theres all that oil flooding into the gulf, but don't let emotions cloud your judgment. The chance of this destroying a large part of the ecosystem is very close to 0, so you are being intellectually dishonest with yourself and others when you make the claim.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

ganktor (1448127) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335660)

Most definitely. I'm surprised you are the first to point that out. Also, how many in here can honestly say that they haven't tried wardriving?

Re:this is gonna be interesting (0)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335918)

I think the consequences are a little different. Google's data gathering isn't destroying the Earth.

Honestly, BP isn't going to destroy the Earth either.

Global Warming isn't going to destroy the Earth.

An all-out nuclear war probably wouldn't destroy the Earth.

It may make the Earth inhospitable to many known forms of life... But the planet would keep spinning on its merry way, and new forms of life would likely emerge.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335584)

I like apples and oranges.

One they can 'format C' the drives and the problem is solved in a day or so. The other will take 10-20 years of cleanup.

For Google though this could be a good thing. They can sometimes be overzealous in the drive to make all data searchable. Some data is not meant to be seen by others. If everyone played nice this wouldnt be a problem. But there are many out there looking to take advantage of any sort of data you 'leak'.

Perhaps they need to take a step back and ask 'would I want my data shown like this?' They need a few paranoids working for them. They may need to take on some rigor in the way they release 'applications'. Currently it seems like whichever group decides to put it up gets their way.

NOW on the other hand Google is only putting together something that anyone else *could* do. But they are doing it with a grand scale. For example If I wanted to 'snoop' on my neighbors wifi I wouldnt even need to leave my couch to do it and I can see at least 20 networks.

So they picked up some extra data. Wipe it and be done with it and apologize profusely...

With BP they can not just turn the thing off so they will take ages to fix it. Even if they could 'turn it off' they will be soaking up oil for many years to come. Then never mind the dozens of businesses and families lives that will be ruined over this. Yeah they are on a different scale.

The difference is like I stubbed my toe and I hacked it off with a chainsaw.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335608)

BP is handling the spill because the government does not have the technology/resources necessary to handle it better [nymag.com] . Google is a totally different situation though. They are acting in an arena where there is little government oversight/regulation at present, so the responsibility falls entirely on them to "do the right thing" from a moral standpoint, and they appear to be failing, once again, to act in the public's best interests. It's my opinion that this is yet another example of why government oversight of privacy standards is not only a good idea, it's a necessity.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (4, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335940)

I like how both your comment AND TFS imply that Google got "caught" doing something. You DO realize that they openly disclosed (without coercion or prompting) this whole wireless mess, right? How is disclosing a mistake to those affected, and then working towards a resolution "failing to do the right thing"? What steps would you propose they take?

Re:this is gonna be interesting (2, Informative)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335982)

We don't know what prompted them to disclose the collection in the first place. Corporations have been "coming clean" on things that were on the verge of being exposed _forever_, there is nothing to suggest that such a thing did not happen here. They "failed to do the right thing" in collecting the information in the first place. Even if we take it to be an "accident" there still must have been employees who were aware of what was happening and chose to not act sooner. I don't know if you realize, they collected a pretty substantial amount of data in a pretty systematic way.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336156)

>>>t's my opinion that this is yet another example of why government oversight of privacy standards is not only a good idea, it's a necessity.

It's my opinion that this is yet another example of why government oversight of privacy standards is a BAD idea. Last time the US "overlooked" data they used it to imprison several million innocent Americans during WW2. Then they used it to do radioactivity experiments on blacks without their knowledge. Then they used the data to round-up Americans and throw them in Guantanamo Bay prison w/o trial. And so on.

Believe it or not, I trust Google more. Even if they do abuse the data, they don't own a police force to drag me off to jail or a laboratory

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336230)

I couldn't agree with you more on all of your points here. But I think you're overlooking one of the mechanisms of regulation -- it is typically reactive. The examples you cite are of government misappropriation of the implicit trust that we are all forced to put in it (to keep us safe I guess). Typically regulation of the private sector comes in the wake of various abuses that are eventually found to cause unnecessary harm to the public (pollution is obviously the easiest example, there was a time that the government didn't care about it at all). Following that discovery, regulation was called for, and found to be quite effective at realigning the incentives of the private sector to avoid poisoning all of us.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

symes (835608) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335654)

I'm not sure if the same logic can be used across the situations BP and Google find themselves in. BP are in a difficult position, drilling for oil is risky and sometimes things go wrong and unpredictably so. That is the nature of the business. There are, of course, legitimate questions on what they could have done to prevent the accident but ultimately BP did not want this situation, it is bad for business. Google on the other hand created this issue, they actively ignored concerns over privacy and gave no one an opt out. Ultimately, Google seem to think that their bottom line is more important than users rights to privacy. BP have the expertise and equipment that give the best chances of stemming the flow of oil... others might be able to do something but I'd imagine, given the public outcry, BP are pretty focussed on getting this sorted out asap. Google, on the other hand, have acted unethically and an external organisation should therefore audit their processes - this is the only way an open and appropriate solution can be achieved and one that can be applied across the industry.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336214)

>>>Google seem to think that their bottom line is more important than users rights to privacy.

Bullshit. It was Google was *voluntarily* told the world what they had done, and were erasing the data. If they were as you described, the managers would have kept silent and just kept collecting.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335694)

I'm pretty sure if BP could put the oil pouring out of the well "on hold" while they did their "internal audit" no one would care.

Seriously, you can't see the difference between something that is outside the control of the company (BP haven't stopped the oil spilling even though they want to) and something that is (google has stopped collecting said data, for now anyway)?

But as I've said before BP is doing all the can to fix the problem, they are drilling a relief well. But people don't want to be told "there is nothing we can do except wait a few months while we drill" so they are trying ever more ludicrous ideas out. None of which they expect to work at all, it's just to satisfy the "you have to do something" crowd - though of course they might get lucky.

I wasn't aware Google was causing (1)

wiredog (43288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335696)

Tens of billions of dollars in environmental damages that were going to have to be cleaned up by the taxpayers.

Re:I wasn't aware Google was causing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335764)

I'm still not even convinced that they did anything wrong. Are we really okay with the precedent that you aren't allowed to even look at data that's being broadcast right into the damn street?

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

Dexy (1751176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335746)

But really, what has this story got to do with BP?

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335836)

I'm really looking forward to the comments. When BP lets the oil spill continue day after day, the /. crowd goes asking why we let them handle it at all, after all they're the ones responsible for the mess.

Now Google has a mess, and is doing an internal audit. I'm curious if we will apply the same reasoning, or a different standard. And what justifications we'll see for it.

I'm honestly shocked that you would be comparing Google's little accident to BP's massive catastrophe that could potentially have long-standing affect on the entire planet.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (4, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336038)

I'm really looking forward to the comments. When BP lets the oil spill continue day after day, the /. crowd goes asking why we let them handle it at all, after all they're the ones responsible for the mess.

The whole BP thing is simply a giant WTF.

I have a genuinely hard time wrapping my head around the fact that they're drilling in water this deep with absolutely no ability to deal with problems like this. They aren't just scrambling to deploy a fix, they're scrambling to come up with a fix.

It doesn't seem like BP should be willing to do something that risky without a disaster plan.

It doesn't seem like the Government should give them the go-ahead to do something that risky without a disaster plan.

It doesn't seem like stockholders should allow them to do something that risky without a disaster plan.

And yet, here we are.

Now Google has a mess, and is doing an internal audit. I'm curious if we will apply the same reasoning, or a different standard. And what justifications we'll see for it.

Google's mess isn't going to kill any wildlife or pollute any waterways. It's very unlikely to result in anybody losing their livelihood. They're also conducting the audit before going ahead, rather than after something has gone horribly wrong (at least with the HD thing in Australia).

Re:this is gonna be interesting (2, Insightful)

Morty (32057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336076)

BP's oil spill has far greater scope and urgency:

* The oil spill is a regional environmental catastrophe. It has scope well outside of BP or even the oil industry as a whole -- it's impacting marshlands, seafood industry, tourism, and other industries. So far, this privacy issue seems to only be present within google.

* The oil spill is an emergency. We normally give companies a chance to "make it right". In the case of the oil spill, any unnecessary delay means definite short-term damage/impact to the environment, the seafood industry, and tourism, and possible long-term damage. We don't have time to take a wait-and-see attitude.

Normal legal processes have taken years to "fix" problems. That's fine for improperly gathering private data; not fine for an ongoing environmental catastrophe.

Re:this is gonna be interesting (1)

Stick32 (975497) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336316)

I'm really looking forward to the comments. When BP lets the oil spill continue day after day, the /. crowd goes asking why we let them handle it at all, after all they're the ones responsible for the mess.

Now Google has a mess, and is doing an internal audit. I'm curious if we will apply the same reasoning, or a different standard. And what justifications we'll see for it.

One is a ongoing disaster of epic proportions that could and probably will devastate the local ecosystem, ruin the livelihood of thousands upon thousands of people, have a final price tag for cleanup that will end up in the billions, and have lasting economic and ecological that we'll feel for decades to come... The other a company was suspected of wrongdoing, admitted it, ceased doing it, and is setting up an audit to determine it's extent At worst the company may have gleaned a few scraps of useful and possibly damaging information from a couple thousand people worldwide that didn't have the sense to properly secure their own data...

A truly excellent comparison if I do say so [/sarcasm]

Privacy breeches? Sign me up! (4, Funny)

kyz (225372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335340)

I'm also interested in privacy galoshes, privacy longjohns and privacy jodhpurs

Re:Privacy breeches? Sign me up! (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335416)

Personally, I draw the line at privacy jorts though.

Re:Privacy breeches? Sign me up! (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335430)

I don't know about the galoshes, but since the rest keep my junk covered, they'd definitely qualify for the "privacy" label. :)

Re:Privacy breeches? Sign me up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335496)

Privacy thong.

I just blew your mind!

Re:Privacy breeches? Sign me up! (2, Insightful)

Megane (129182) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335566)

I was wondering about privacy trousers myself.

Re:Privacy breeches? Sign me up! (1)

psmears (629712) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335688)

I'm also interested in privacy galoshes, privacy longjohns and privacy jodhpurs

Another member of the tinfoil trouser brigade?

Re:Privacy breeches? Sign me up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335850)

They just mean they were caught with their breeches down...

Re:Privacy breeches? Sign me up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335880)

Note to the editors: the link should ready 'privacy breaches.'

Looks like we caught them with their pants down.

"Publicly Available" (5, Insightful)

dward90 (1813520) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335356)

While I'm not an expert on security or privacy, it seems to me like "publicly available" should mean that they didn't gather any data that citizens weren't openly broadcasting anyway. From an ethical perspective, it's shaky at best, but it's probably a huge difference legally.

I'm not endorsing Google's collection, but aren't people who openly broadcast their data be at least *a little* at fault here?

Re:"Publicly Available" (2, Informative)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335380)

Yes, people should definitely secure their communications.

That said, just because someone leaves their door open, doesn't mean Google should waltz right in.

Re:"Publicly Available" (3, Insightful)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335470)

Google didn't just "waltz right in."

They collected it by accident, and when they realized they had it, they publicly stated that they had the information, and were purging it.

They didn't need to say anything, because nobody knew they had it until they announced it. But in the spirit of openness, they stated what had happened, how it had happened, and their proposed remedy for the situation.

The fact that various regulators are getting pissy about it isn't their fault.

Re:"Publicly Available" (3, Insightful)

papasui (567265) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335568)

**Cough**Bullshit**Cough** There's plenty of wifi scanners available that only collect SSID and mac addresses. They don't necessarily sniff the data and record it. Google or the company they contract made a decision to gather this data, the only accident was getting caught.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336072)

If the story had been "google accidentally gathers SSIDs and mac addresses", I would have been alongside you saying "baloney"... mapping that stuff out is exactly the sort of thing Google is into. But sniffing data in a way that is guarenteed to cause legal issues, and THEN announcing it to the world? Google is much more savvy than that, I dont buy that it was intentional.

Re:"Publicly Available" (3, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336174)

So you know their claim that they reused some software from another google project without noticing it recorded more than what they actually cared about is false?

And you know that the programmer who did so either didn't realize at all or didn't just think "who cares if it wastes resources grabbing that stuff it's minuscule and we can just not use it" and just used it without mentioning it to anyone?

Are you omniscient? Or do you just spend your life spying on google?

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335614)

They collected it by accident, and when they realized they had it, they publicly stated that they had the information, and were purging it.

I apologize in advance for excessive use of quotes. Yeah, because as a part of the mapping process, they "just left on" the "part" that scans for wifi networks and mac addresses, oh and don't worry about that "sample" of traffic we took as well, we made it "disappear".

I'm sorry, I simply do not trust any company with any of my data. It's a necessary evil that I have to give up as much information as I do "voluntarily" to get services and goods. I wish there was a better way, one that doesn't require us to all jump through ridiculous hoops to secure our identities.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336092)

So you maintain that Google intentionally did some legally questionable sniffing, just so they could announce it to everyone (and delete the data)? Riiiiight....

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336140)

If you don't want other people to have your data, don't broadcast it with zero encryption. You can't sit there and yell at the top of your lungs all day long and then get mad when someone hears and/or records what you're saying.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335710)

You are suggesting that in the entire chain of people who were attached to that project, who knew the processes and methods that were employed, nobody noticed that they were "accidentally" collecting data? Either it was not an accident, or a whole lot of people at Google are completely OK with looking the other way when it comes to accidental user privacy errors. I don't know about you, but I think the latter of those two may actually be worse.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336108)

I dont work at a big company, but do managers always know the inner details of the settings used in the programs their employees use? Do CEOs know about compiler options used by their devs?

Re:"Publicly Available" (2, Insightful)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336198)

No, they don't, which is exactly my point. In order to have an organization that could do something like protect the privacy of the users/customers/public effectively the culture of the corporation has to promote accountability and responsibility all the way down to the lowest levels. People on the bottom, the ones who actually do the acting on the part of the organization, have to have been given a good understanding of what management thinks is valuable from a moral standpoint and encouraged to act on that understanding. What we have here is possibly a failure of that system, which means that this may be an anomaly only in that it was detected not in that it occurred. That would be bad.

Re:"Publicly Available" (4, Informative)

papasui (567265) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335866)

They didn't offer it up, they got caught in Germany. It's spin that they are being the 'good guy' and offering it up in other countries. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8684110.stm [bbc.co.uk] And also, as a company that data would be deemed a record and needs to be treated in compliance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Records_management [wikipedia.org]

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336176)

"Realized they had it"?? They're like the kid who only "realizes" his hand is in the cookie jar after his mother catches him.

Re:"Publicly Available" (4, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335582)

and if someone publishes a web page you shouldn't be able to just waltz right in and view whatever's on it!

If someone watches you walk around naked while you're in the bathroom that's a violation of your privacy.
If someone watches you walk around naked in the middle of the street then they have done nothing to violate your privacy.

people shouldn't be required to secure their communications *effectively* but some kind of symbolic security should be required to expect any kind of privacy.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335762)

This is assuming that most common users understand that their networks are not properly secured and are making a conscious and informed decision to share their data with anyone in range of their network. That is a stupid assumption from a societal standpoint. A good parallel would probably be analog cell phones, which could be monitored using specialized radio scanners, which were then made effectively illegal to prevent eavesdropping. The argument you just made could have been applied to that same situation: obviously the people understand that their cell phones are not secured, and therefore consent to anyone listening in if they want to. No sir, I don't believe I would like to live in your world.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335934)

Ignorance is no excuse, "Sorry officer, i didn't know that driving under the influence of alcohol was a crime here, it's not in Uzbekistan"... Same thing here, "I didn't know leaving my AP unencrypted would let everyone see my LOLCATS!".

From everything I have heard about this incident, they only collected from open APs, they did not in fact break any encryption. So as far as i'm concerned the data was "public" with all intentions of it being that way, like painting your name, SS, and DoB on your garage door, and then bitching that your identity was stolen, you made no attempt at all.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336088)

This isn't a legal issue (yet) it's an ethical one. So fine, as you have pointed out, many of the people who had their data collected may have been ignorant of the fact that their data could be gathered by any passers by. Does that mean that they wanted that data to be shared and disclosed? Obviously not, it may even suggest that many of them, if not ignorant, would have chosen to protect that information (as you pointed out with your SS, DoB Garage Door analogy, that's information that you would obviously want to protect, therefore your WiFi traffic is something that you believe any reasonable person would also want to protect). So, now knowing that many of those people out there would not want you to gather their data, but are ignorant of the fact that you can get it, and there are no legal obstacles to you doing so, you just go ahead and do it because you benefit from something that they would perceive as a harm? I'm sorry, in my book that's just wrong.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336116)

the little lock symbol you see when connecting to a secure wireless is a clue as is it's conspicuous lack.

In your world cheap walkie talkies would be illegal because someone might be using a pair and be too stupid to understand that anyone else with a similar walkie talkie could be listening in.

with the old phones you had no real options.
the devices couldn't be used otherwise.

Wireless routers with the exception of stunningly ancient ones have a handy little dropdown menue where you can select an open or secure setup.

And to add the icing to the cake the "specialized radio scanners" in your example were unusual equipment.
My cell phone can listen in to nearby open wireless networks just like pretty much any 10 dollar wireless card in any bog standard laptop.

You have as much privacy on an open wireless network as you have when using a childs toy walkie talkie.
if someone else picks up the signal its your own damned fault.

it's not someone spying on you through a peep-hole in your wall.
it's you freely choosing to broadcast a live feed of yourself to everyone out on the street.

being too ignorant to realize it doesn't give you the right to brand everyone you broadcast too a peeping tom.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336310)

It's not a legal argument, it's a moral argument. The fact that the person you're snooping may or may not know that they can be snooped does not make it right for you to do so.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336122)

In the world I live in, it is called irresponsible (and illegal) to purchase and drive a car with neither the training nor knowhow to drive one. Why is hooking up a wireless router any different-- just because our culture has decided to promote irresponsible and reckless behavior?

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

elewton (1743958) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336278)

You can kill someone with the car quite easily, but would have try quite hard to harm someone by not encrypting your network.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336052)

And according to another story on Slashdot today, an employer visiting an employees public Facebook page is a violation of your privacy. Its amazing how many double standards there are.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336144)

where did anyone say they have no right to view a public profile?
firing someone for a trivial offhand joke on a public facebook page on the other hand is a different matter.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336326)

There are very different ideas on what privacy is. For one it is everything that is not happening in public. For me it is everything that is happening to me as a person, including walking in a public place.

If you see me, I have no issue with it. However if you record it, then I have. If I do something stupid in a public place some 100 (or perhaps 1000) people might see it. They might even tell others that they saw this person doing some weird stuff. And that will be the end of it.

Record it and put it on a website and everybody, including people who were not there, will be able to see it and it will be haunting me till the end of my life.

See it as a personal copyright, if you will, where I have the right to either opensource or close source my personal image or give it any license I want. That would mean that you would need the consent of each person involved. Great.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335700)

Walk through the door? More like you were standing inside your house and yelling, "My name is ___ and my password is ____ and I'm visiting the following sites: (insert list)." The neighbors are not to blame if they can hear your loud mouth, and neither are any passersby.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335868)

No, that is not an accurate analogy at all.

People understand that if they leave their doors open and have an argument, that people outside the door can hear them having said argument. However, do the people outside the door have the right to record said argument? It's a grey area, it isn't clear cut at all in my opinion.

I could sniff traffic on the 10 unsecured wifi networks in and around the building I am in, but that doesn't mean I have the right to keep that traffic, or go through it for information so I can sell services to the people using those networks does it?

That's the thing here...there is absolutely no reason AT ALL in my opinion why google, or the company(ies) they used to do the street view should have done ANYTHING AT ALL with wifi networks, macs and data. What the hell does that have to do with mapping streets?

Nothing. Nothing at all. That's why it's a bad thing. If I freely offer to give you directions to the gas station down the street, and then record the make, model, license plate and VIN number of your car without your knowledge would you have an issue with that? That information is available, right? But most would consider it an invasion of privacy. Could I? Sure. Should I? Absolutely not, in my opinion.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336070)

Yes, people should definitely secure their communications.

That said, just because someone leaves their door open, doesn't mean Google should waltz right in.

Nobody waltzed right in... Google drove by on the street and collected what it could see from the road.

If you leave your front door open and stand in the hallway naked, you can't complain too much about Google snapping a picture of you.

Re:"Publicly Available" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32336186)

Isn't it the same thing as capturing data sent out by radio stations unencrypted? For example, satellite TV that is unencrypted can be received by anyone and nobody really complains. If it is encrypted though, you are supposed to pay for it. This data was being broadcast unencrypted and although it is by low power transmitters, someone other than the intended party receiving it isn't that unexpected. I think the surprising thing here is the SCALE of it.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

jbezorg (1263978) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336240)

Yes, people should definitely secure their communications.

That said, just because someone leaves their door open, doesn't mean Google should waltz right in.

On the opposite side though, they are broadcasting that information to the public in clear form.

To use another analogy:

What if the noisy neighbor got into shouting matches with another tenant in their apartment and you, unfortunately, became aware of some very personal details? Are you to blame for having those very personal details burned into your memory? Are you to blame for having ears and not being deaf?

If you actually did sneak into their house and listened while they had a private conversation, then yes. you would be right but this is more along the lines of a noisy neighbor.

Re:"Publicly Available" (3, Insightful)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335596)

Look at it another way. If there was a company - call it "Gaggle" - that drove up and down the streets and roads of the world making sound recordings to present a "Street Sounds" feature to their new mapping program. Would there be such a fuss if they recorded the voices of two people shouting across the street at each other? Its about the same thing.

Re:"Publicly Available" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335706)

And it seems that there are people doing just *that*!! http://www.thesmalls.com/StreetSounds/

OMG! I feel so violated now

Re:"Publicly Available" (3, Insightful)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335788)

The people shouting *know* that other people can hear them.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336002)

operating a radio transmitter should mean you know this. If not you should consult with people that know this stuff, much like you do with a mechanic, or plumber. Ignorance isn't an excuse, to use an analogy i used earlier on this topic;

"Sorry officer, i didn't know that driving under the influence of alcohol was a crime here, it's not in Uzbekistan"

you still get your nights accommodations for free.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336120)

You're again countering a moral argument with a legal argument. However, what is legal and what is right are not one and the same.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336112)

The people shouting *know* that other people can hear them.

And people communicating on a CB know that other people can hear them.

And people communicating with an unencrypted wireless device should know that other people can hear them.

The fact that they're ignorant doesn't really make it my fault that I overheard their conversation.

Re:"Publicly Available" (2, Insightful)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336212)

If you buy radio equipment you should also *know* that other people can pick up the signals as well. If you don't want other people listening in on your data, simply "whisper" by using encryption.

Ignorance is no excuse. RTFM when you purchase your radio transmitter (read: WAP/Wireless Router). Don't just bitch that you had no idea what security was and everyone listening is wrong for doing so.

Re:"Publicly Available" (2, Insightful)

skywire (469351) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336232)

Precisely. That is why it is the perfect analogy. Just as a person shouting from a window has no reasonable expectation that passersby will somehow "shut their ears", neither does a person broadcasting unencrypted information have a reasonable expectation that the public will not receive that. This is not just a legal technicality; it is practical reality.

Re:"Publicly Available" (1)

Rayonic (462789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335674)

The best analogy would be if the Street View cars had microphones to record... I dunno, traffic noise level, and they accidentally recorded you and your wife having a shouting match out in your yard. All recorded from public property (the street), and all quite legal.

If it's not legal, then all those TV shows, filmmakers, and news gatherers who like wander around with a camcorder are in trouble.

breeches (1)

bidule (173941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335464)

Google should wear pants that hides more than its show. Because when your show is public, there's no privacy.

IMHO (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335574)

They could have gotten away with this scot-free without doing a full internal audit, not to mention temporarily halting data processing. Given the assumption that there's no hidden underlying cause pushing them towards this, it's slightly above-and-beyond in my opinion.

Re:IMHO (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335856)

Usually when these kinds of things happen (companies apparently acting against the public interest for their own gain and then getting caught in the process) there is a big backlash and a call for government investigations and regulations. Internal audits are just a classic tactic to try and squelch that knee-jerk reaction. Banks, manufacturing companies, heck, pretty much any kind of company caught in the government/public cross-hairs will do that. It's just a defensive play, it doesn't mean that they didn't screw up, and it doesn't mean that the government should not still look into it. Would you be satisfied if the government accepted BP's post spill "internal audit" as sufficient investigation and then just left it at that?

Re:IMHO (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336188)

there is a big backlash and a call for government investigations and regulations. Internal audits are just a classic tactic to try and squelch that knee-jerk reaction.

Didnt they CAUSE that backlash when they chose to disclose the issue in the first place? Are you saying they decided, "Lets cause a massive public PR disaster, and then lets attempt to appease the masses with a phony internal audit"?

Re:IMHO (2, Informative)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336276)

The PR disaster could have very well been inevitable. Even if we take the story that they provided as true, that it was an accident, it is still likely that the truth would come out eventually in which case it would look far far worse than it does now. It's always better to come clean in those cases, particularly if discovery appears inevitable (believe me, lots of large corporations sweep all kinds of things under the rug, as long as they know for a fact that they stand little to no chance of being discovered). So, accepting that disclosure would be necessary at some point, given the magnitude of the apparent violation, the likely hood of public backlash, and the increasing pressure for government oversight/regulation of data collection/retention by private companies: yeah, do an internal audit ASAP.

BREAKING NEWS !! FOX GUARDS HENHOUSE !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335650)

You heard it First on Four !!

WTF (0, Troll)

ladylardbottom (1813818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335754)

Dude, learn to spell "breach" seriously WTF asshole

Re:WTF (0, Offtopic)

ladylardbottom (1813818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335824)

aww crap gonna get banned by /. -- meh.

Re:WTF (1)

ladylardbottom (1813818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335964)

Okay, so I correct the spelling of "breach" and I'm a troll. To expand, I think this whole attack on Google in Australia is B, given Stephen Conroy's attack on them recently. Fair dinkum?

Re:WTF (0, Offtopic)

ladylardbottom (1813818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336040)

Yay so you corrected the spelling. Wow/ Slashdot practices revisionist history. Way to go, dudes!

Publicly available payload data. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335792)

"not only publicly available SSIDs and MAC addresses, but also samples of **publicly available** payload data transmitted over these networks"

There, fixed it for ya. At least half of the responsibility lies with those owning unsecured networks. If you don't want your data public, learn to secure it. Google is still at fault for breaking a public promise, mind you. However, the news stories seem to miss the crucial piece of information: _anybody_ can listen to these packets (and chances are many people do). However, it's digital data, and that means it's evil to listen to it. Hmm.

Re:Publicly available payload data. (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336208)

No, its google, so its cool to jump on their case for everything they do, legitimate or otherwise.

Stumble This! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335972)

This entire wireless thing is total BS. From what I have read, they were using kismet for their wireless collection program. and if they were channel hopping like any good war-driver I assure you they were not around long enough to get anything useful. (DNS,netbios,MDNS packets etc) All of it was open to begin with and all ready up for grabs. most people know what they are buying now when they get an AP that is not setup properly (Big warning stickers printed on box for setup).

complete non-issue! (1)

Bielenberg (725555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336000)

Of course we can trust good American corporations like google, there's never been unethical behavior in the corporate sector! ... it's not as if governments like China will have access to any of the information they're collecting!

HD? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336312)

With the promise of HD street view, what's the legal ramifications of Google taking a picture that allows someone to see into your house through a window? What about license plates? Could someone write an application that "walks" down the streets and OCRs all the visible license plates?

Are we expected that if we want privacy we have to keep our blinds/shades closed at all times?

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