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Google Relents, Will Hand Over European Wi-Fi Data

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the at-least-we-know-the-govts-won't-abuse-it dept.

Google 214

itwbennett writes "Having previously denied demands from Germany that the company turn over hard drives with data it secretly collected from open wireless networks over the past three years, Google has reversed course. A Google representative said that it will hand over the data to German, French, and Spanish authorities within a matter of days, according to the Financial Times, which first reported this latest development on Wednesday. 'We screwed up. Let's be very clear about that,' Google CEO Eric Schmidt told the newspaper."

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214 comments

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Great (4, Insightful)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 4 years ago | (#32454984)

They're opening up a whole warehouse full of cans of worms by handing the data over to a government with plenty of agendas instead of destroying it.

Re:Great (4, Insightful)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455032)

True. But they opened the first can of worms by collecting it in the first place.

Re:Great (4, Interesting)

micksam7 (1026240) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455092)

They opened the can of worms by announcing that they had collected it. If they stayed silent, and shredded the data quietly, they'd probably wouldn't be in this mess and no one would have known they ever did it. Google instead has been trying to make this situation 'right' by being transparent about it, and no one gives a crap about it. The governments certainly are going to grab that data, use it as evidence to prosecute Google, and keep it around for ~other reasons~ for years upon years.

Re:Great (0, Troll)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455126)

HA! Right. If Google hadn't announced they'd collected it, they'd never destroy it. Remember, their entire business model is information. I think you trust in them a little too much if you think they'd just randomly destroy any information that might possibly have value.

My call is they went public with the info because they knew a leak was inevitable, and thought they could save face by being open. They didn't quite count on governments taking an interest so forcefully. That, or they knew governments would, and planned so that they could still end up looking like the good guys, because hey, the big mean government is taking the data, and who knows what THOSE GUYS are going to do with it.

Looks like that option worked on you, so no, they opened the can of worms by collecting it unnecessarily.

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455342)

This is not useful information even for Google. Their software was constantly switching frequencies so we're talking about less than a seconds worth of packets for any given network.

What are they gonna do with that?

"Well, Ted, based off this TCP_ACK I'm seeing here, I think we can safely conclude that this Fred Morgan of 123 Anystreet is gay. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Sure is Bob, that's the queerest TCP_ACK I've ever seen."

They don't want this crap. They can't monetize that. They *want* to delete it. They want to have never captured it in the first place, but sadly that ship has sailed. If they delete it, they'll be charged with destroying evidence or whatever the equivalent crime is in the various European jurisdictions in question. One dumb careless mistake has grown a life of it's own.

Re:Great (0, Flamebait)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455468)

"They want to have never captured it in the first place" would have seen Google 'see their' error on day one and call it a beta test with safeguards for the real global collection.
Google knew it was wrong in Germany as it started, but thought they could get away with it due to other collection attempts.
Google spun up the German legal system for a long term cash win and looks like they will have the data seen by outsiders.
Tech law was fluid in most parts of the world, but law makers did seem to realise you dont get to play man in the middle and keep any data.
No matter what others might have done, the encryption not used, the profit projections or the global long term "error".

Re:Great (0, Flamebait)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455518)

It was definitely useful to someone in google, you don't collect this stuff by accident. Not only that but if you can't understand how this is an utter gold mine for various governments around the world, then you need to soak up a few more conspiracy theories coupled with information published by groups like the Federation of American Scientists (fas.org) - that'll gain you a tremendous amount of insight in to the actual real life inner workings of various secret 3 letter agencies. Former 3 letter agency drone myself, so I speak from experience.

Traffic analysis, it's all part of the bigger picture. Less than a second can still yield interesting results. MAC addresses tied to latitude and longitude, secret rooms in major ISP's that have access to whatever they need, enough information that they can accurately deduce who you are and where you are, but even more scary, who you talk to, who they talk to, and on and on for as many layers as the data storage medium can log. This is, effectively, the same type of thing that facebook does. Facebook obviously figured out a commercial use for it. Governments have been doing the same thing for as long as they've existed.

Re:Great (1)

unkiereamus (1061340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455630)

Truth be told, even if I were not to write you off as a crazy conspiracy theorist and instead were to take your words as being utterly honest and upfront, there's not a damn thing I can do about it, so I'm happier disregarding such threats.

I'll take being happy over being right any day.

Re:Great (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456070)

I'll take being happy over being right any day.

you are free to have any opinion but being ignorant or feigning ignorance is completely unacceptable to me. i'd take knowledge over happiness/satisfaction any day.

Re:Great (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455420)

The "sensitive" Data is only a small fraction of what happened to be transmitted while the Google car drove by. There would be hardly any value to it at all.
And they had been doing it that way for about three years, without anyone at Google themselves ever noticing what was being recorded. The chances of anyone else finding out are rather slim indeed.

Re:Great (1)

yyxx (1812612) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455488)

My call is they went public with the info because they knew a leak was inevitable, and thought they could save face by being open. They didn't quite count on governments taking an interest so forcefully.

And why should they? Historically, collecting pictures and wireless transmissions in public has been legal. And it's also something plenty of other companies have done.

If Google hadn't announced they'd collected it, they'd never destroy it.

Google has data retention policies and they probably comply with them. And the data is essentially useless. But even if not, what difference would it make? This is publicly broadcast, unencrypted data.

they could still end up looking like the good guys, because hey, the big mean government is taking the data, and who knows what THOSE GUYS are going to do with it.

I really doubt that they planned this. But that is indeed the question you should be asking.

Re:Great (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455956)

HA! Right. If Google hadn't announced they'd collected it, they'd never destroy it. Remember, their entire business model is information. I think you trust in them a little too much if you think they'd just randomly destroy any information that might possibly have value.

I assume you have heard about making copies of harddisks? I think we can trust Google to have this insight too - the data are not going to be destroyed, of course, only the originals - possibly, after a backup has been made.

That, or they knew governments would, and planned so that they could still end up looking like the good guys, because hey, the big mean government is taking the data, and who knows what THOSE GUYS are going to do with it.

Well, I don't. I think people in America are a lot more paranoid about government than most. To me it doesn't seem like an incredibly big deal, to be honest. After all, what can they actually do with the data? I have regularly the opportunity to sift through largish datasets, being in charge of a number of big UNIXes and having to figure out from the logs why the hell it went wrong; I find that hard going sometimes, and that is just some 10MB of what must called clear text (which is not to say that the meaning is obvious). Just imagine having to wade through probably 100s of TB of randomly scrambled network packages.

Finding the network traffic relating to one or a few suspects may be just barely within the reach of the authorities with current technology, but there is no way they can start making a comprehensive map of everything all individuals have been doing on the net; there won't be technology available for it for a long time yet either.

And just think about how much serious crime still slips under the radar - ordinary citizens have little to fear from the government (apart from incompetence), whether they are malevolent or not. The only way a repressive government can keep their population under surveillance is by minimizing the amount of information people can exchange, which is one reason why North Korea is so completely shut off from the world; and even then it doesn't work very well.

Re:Great (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455458)

They opened the can of worms by announcing that they had collected it. If they stayed silent, and shredded the data quietly, they'd probably wouldn't be in this mess and no one would have known they ever did it. Google instead has been trying to make this situation 'right' by being transparent about it, and no one gives a crap about it. The governments certainly are going to grab that data, use it as evidence to prosecute Google, and keep it around for ~other reasons~ for years upon years.

eh.. you do know that they only announced this after governments in Europe requested to audit their data collection in general? The ball was already rolling on this, and they were smart in rolling with it. But this was not something Google just announced out of the blue on their own without outside pressure.

And Google has a patent pending on the method they used to collect this data.. Accident my ass.

Re:Great (2, Interesting)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455168)

They could have announced it after they destroyed it.

Re:Great (5, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455482)

Only for those of you who apply all your thoughts on privacy entirely inconsistently.

Few months ago on slashdot someone published a list of every wifi hotspot on their train line. Where was the uproar then? Cops want to reserve the right no to be photographed in public, and people complain (rightfully so) that what they do in public should be recordable with no recourse. Now google drives a car down the streets and collects your publicly visible information (SSID) and you complain again that they should not be collecting private data?

How come every ideal on slashdot is applied so haphazardly? Make a choice people. Should something that anyone can see from your street be private, or public?

As a side note, how many people complaining about Google's collection of wireless information actually bothered to uncheck that little box that says "Broadcast SSID"?

Re:Great (1)

unkiereamus (1061340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455656)

I often promise myself that were I to receive again mod points, I would apply them with great fervor to the places they are deserved, this comment exemplifies that notion.

While I await that happy circumstance, I content myself to combat ignorance as I am best able. It doesn't actually improve things around here, but it makes me feel better.

You sir, have made a point better than I could ever hope to, I commend you.

Re:Great (1)

Hermel (958089) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456158)

I'm happy you didn't receive any mod points. Otherwise you would have voted up a completely ignorant post. Google collected much more than the SSID, it also collected transmitted data (see also the comment titled 'RTFA').

Actually, I just logged in in the hope of getting mod points to be able to downvote the ignorant comment and upvote 'RTFA'. But I didn't get any either.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455778)

First, quit suggesting they should disable SSID broadcast -- breaking standards to try to get "privacy" is hard to justify in the first place, but urging people to do it in this case, where it has no significant privacy benefit, and offering them a false sense of security, is just plain douchebaggery.

Second, in this specific case, the complaints are about Google logging payload data. Hint for clueless morons: payload data would be transmitted regardless of whether you hide your SSID -- that only affects beacons. If your network was in fact completely idle when the Googlemobile drove by, they didn't get any payload data, and blocking beacons would have prevented them from seeing your AP. If it wasn't, THEN THEY GOT YOUR FUCKING BSSID REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU BLOCKED BEACONS, BECAUSE THAT'S THE ONLY WAY THE FUCKING RADIOS KNOW WHO THE HELL THE PACKET GOOGLE "STOLE" IS MEANT FOR!

RTFA (3, Informative)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455844)

Now google drives a car down the streets and collects your publicly visible information (SSID) and you complain again that they should not be collecting private data?

Except that Google wasn't just recording SSID data, it was also collecting data that traveled through those access points. Doesn't anybody bother to find out basic facts before commenting anymore?

Re:RTFA (3, Insightful)

sahonen (680948) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456184)

How exactly is data which is transmitted to the public airwaves by you any different than an SSID which is transmitted into the public airwaves by a router? If you transmit information unencrypted in an extremely widely known modulation scheme, where exactly is the expectation of privacy in doing so? It's like complaining that someone wrote down something you yelled in the middle of Times Square.

Re:Great (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456090)

i doubt that google recorded 600GBS of SSID. don't you think it would be absurd?? i meaan ssids are usually 6-10 characters in length arent they?

Re:Great (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456206)

How come every ideal on slashdot is applied so haphazardly?

Because YOU are not ME and we are both slashdot.
Or in other words slashdot is tens of thousands of individuals all with their own ideas.

Re:Great (1)

Monolith1 (1481423) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455710)

True. But they opened the first can of worms by collecting it in the first place.

Sorry, I disagree. FFS, if you have an open network you deserve to get owned by whichever network snooping person is driving past.

If you choose to broadcast unencrypted in range of a public road that google are driving along, IMHO stiff, you are broadcasting into the public domain. Anyone reading /. should know better and I cant believe all the Holier than Thou attitudes to this. Google are slimy suit wearing advertising types, but hell, these fools were asking for it.

Would there be all this uproar if Google collected data on people which didn't have a front door (or any form of physical entrance security) to their house?

ENDRANT

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455874)

Would there be all this uproar if Google collected data on people which didn't have a front door (or any form of physical entrance security) to their house?

Erm... yes! If someone opens their windows/doors, then of course they are allowing anyone in visual range to observe what they do. That is not the same thing as granting permission to anyone in visual range to *record* what they do. The latter would be a horrific invasion of privacy.

When I leave my office door unlocked during the day, I don't expect someone to come in and steal my computer, or my wallet or mobile phone if I've left them on my desk. Theoretically anyone could walk into the unlocked building, enter my unlocked office and steal my things when I'm in a meeting etc. They don't, because I live in a functioning society where people by and large trust each other. If some slimy advertiser from Google walked in and started photographing all of my things, I'd consider it a violation of both my privacy and the social norms of the society I live in.

Google's management and staff may believe that a society where corporations are free to invade privacy and violate social norms is acceptable, but when they try to get away with this in Europe, they may find that the public, and the governments that serve the public, won't accept it.

Re:Great (1)

_merlin (160982) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455102)

Agree, and that's all the more reason they shouldn't have collected it in the first place. I don't trust Google or the government. The government probably sees this as a bonanza - they know they wouldn't be allowed to collect the data themselves, so it's a bonus that a company did it illegally to cop the rap.

Re:Great (1)

buttle2000 (1041826) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455186)

Yes Sir. I don't trust the European Star Fleet any more than I do Google.

Re:Great (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455800)

Actually, I trust Google more than the Government because Google can be held accountable, the Government cannot.

If Google accidentally let this information slip into the world it will seriously harm their business. And so far Google has done a good job at keeping the information they have locked away. According to my count it's 1 incident where they were actively hacked.

Now for Governments, they regularly leak highly sensitive information by carelessness of their employees. And that's not even counting targeted attacks. And when there is another incident, not a single head rolls because of it. They just spend a shit load of extra money on regulations that they think will prevent another incident.

Re:Great (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455298)

I wonder what exactly is in that data. Because if it's anything good, they'll use it for sure. Remember, the German government is the same one that bought data which was stolen from a Swiss bank, to go after tax evaders with offshore savings accounts... They then sold the stolen data to the Dutch internal revenue service. The Dutch courts (this went all the way to the supreme court IIRC) had no issue whatsoever with this data being used to track down tax evaders.

Funny, evidence in criminal court needs to meet certain standards, and there are rules for intel that doesn't get used as evidence as well. But when it comes to tax evasion, apparently it's fine to traffic in stolen goods. No, I do not trust my government with the Google data, and I hope they will not get it.

Re:Great (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455386)

What exactly would the government want with WiFi data?

It's probably the final stage in their plan to destroy democracy.

Whatever for? (1)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32454992)

What will those govt's (mine among them) do with that? Call me anything, but I'd prefer the data to be in Google's hands, where it will give something back, than in the hands of the Government. Especially if those misnamed "intelligency agencies" are to set their hands on them.

Re:Whatever for? (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455040)

Well, the government wanted the data for an investigation into what Google collected.

Re:Whatever for? (2, Insightful)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455188)

Usually that would mean sending someone to have a look and see and perhaps sample the data. It's how they go about our IRS equivalent, social services, workplace safety, and about any situation where the Gov't needs to inspect something. TFA says originally Hamburg wanted about that - access to a hard drive and to a Street View car; note the singular. However, now they are talking about giving "the data", not about letting the authorities inspect it. Too fuzzy for my liking.

Funny, by the way, how Google wondered about the legality of having its data inspected by the data protection authority. "We screwed up" is the only adequate and honest thing for them to say after that. It's not without merit, because what other big company would?

Re:Whatever for? (4, Insightful)

yyxx (1812612) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455460)

Funny, by the way, how Google wondered about the legality of having its data inspected by the data protection authority.

Nothing "funny" about it; they probably have good lawyers, lawyers who advised them that handing over the data to the "data protection authority" without a court order may itself constitute a violation of German privacy laws.

Usually that would mean sending someone to have a look and see and perhaps sample the data.

Or it might mean that the "data protection authority" goes on a massive data mining quest to identify file sharers, pornographers, and anybody who runs an open WLAN, and then charges all of those people with breaking the law. They couldn't drive around collecting that data themselves, but they can obtain it from Google. Probably it doesn't mean that in this specific case, but it sets a bad precedent.

Think about it: if you were a government intent on violating people's privacy, what would be the best place to do it? That's right: the "data protection authority", armed with a legal right to request and inspect anybody's data without a court order, just to look for more "data protection violations".

You live in the US, right ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32456022)

data protection authority did more for our privacy than you would imagine. We have for example in europe a right to examine, or change or remove record on ourselves from any firms. Or the ability of firm to gather data is seriously limited. You have not the slightest idea what the Datenschuetztbehoerde is about. But congrat on getting modded up by simply rehashing a US prejudice.

Re:Whatever for? (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456114)

Funny, by the way, how Google wondered about the legality of having its data inspected by the data protection authority.

Nothing "funny" about it; they probably have good lawyers, lawyers who advised them that handing over the data to the "data protection authority" without a court order may itself constitute a violation of German privacy laws.

Usually that would mean sending someone to have a look and see and perhaps sample the data.

Or it might mean that the "data protection authority" goes on a massive data mining quest to identify file sharers, pornographers, and anybody who runs an open WLAN, and then charges all of those people with breaking the law. They couldn't drive around collecting that data themselves, but they can obtain it from Google. Probably it doesn't mean that in this specific case, but it sets a bad precedent.

Think about it: if you were a government intent on violating people's privacy, what would be the best place to do it? That's right: the "data protection authority", armed with a legal right to request and inspect anybody's data without a court order, just to look for more "data protection violations".

so when did pornography become illegal , then?

Re:Whatever for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455062)

Don't worry. They got backups...

Re:Whatever for? (1)

yyxx (1812612) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455428)

Yeah, that's actually the real question: what are they going to do with it? Look for file sharers? Look for pornography? Under German law, a lot of communications are illegal, and there are probably hundreds of thousands of felonies recorded in that data.

Even more worrisome is the procedure by which the government obtains this. Google hasn't been ordered by a court to hand over this data, it is simply being requested by a government bureaucrat. Penalties for not complying with his demands can be steep, not just for the company but its employees.

Re:Whatever for? (0, Flamebait)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455548)

Intelligence agencies already work with telcos and Bells from inception. Its part of getting your telco approval.
Germany has laws, as do other parts of the world saying you cannot break into other peoples networks (encrypted or not) and keep the data (small or large amounts).
The origin of the laws might have been data protection ie hackers or other from private firms or public/private partnerships.
Google knew this but still went ahead with wide area wifi collection.
Google could have lobbied hard for an exemption or law change re education, nation building, disability support, tourism or any buzz issue with PR tech bite.
Requested to build a better iworld, this is what we are doing, your evil luddite state/federal regulator said "No"
But Google just tried to slip under the legal protection of "they did it too".

Re:Whatever for? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455940)

FUCK you and your moronic crap.

Their "wide-area wifi collection" didn't "break into" anyone's network -- not even by the loosest definition of associating to an open AP. They recorded data that was broadcast, but did nothing to cause, incite, or affect its transmission. This obviously puts them in the moral clear, though it doesn't directly speak to the legal situation. After all, many European countries are so fucked up that it's not permitted to own a radio receiver for audio or TV broadcasts without a license from the government, so who the hell knows. But it CERTAINLY doesn't violate any law that can HONESTLY be characterized as "you cannot break into other peoples networks (encrypted or not) and keep the data (small or large amounts)".

Second, note that nobody, not even the German Fucking Government, complained about the original goal, recording BSSID/location data for geolocation. This whole controversy is about the _payload_ data that was stored. Google has claimed this was an accident, and there's not a particularly good reason to disbelieve them -- I'll spend the next three paragraphs spewing forth an explanation of this, even though it does drift astray from any points you may have tried to make.

The way most off-the-shelf tools are setup by default is to record everything, analyse it later. The obvious way to write your own software (from a technical, not legal perspective, because it was written by coders, not lawyers) is to save everything you hear -- on-the-fly filtering is at best an optimization to save disk-space. I'm not clear on whether they're using their own software or an off-the-shelf tool (AFAIK they've not told us), but either way, saving everything is a plausible, even strongly likely, default.

As for the notion "they'd have realized it was filling up the disk with too much data -- what would you do? In the absence of some suspicion of a problem, would you count the SSIDs recorded, figure out how many bytes they should each take, add a reasonable percentage for db overhead, and crap out an expected storage space, just to check? Or would you take it for a run the first day, measure the space used, and call that "typical"? Hint: the latter is not necessarily right, but it's not really wrong, and is certainly what most people would do.

Unless they had a lawyer, or other legal-minded individual, involved to the point of asking probing questions about the _implementation_ (not just signing off on the plan), or otherwise were prompted to an actual suspicion of a problem, it's quite plausible that they did in fact inadvertently capture the data, and remained unaware of it for quite some time. Given that what they say is perfectly plausible, and I have yet to hear ONE SHRED of evidence to the contrary, I guess I'm inclined to believe them.

Meta Screwup? (3, Insightful)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455002)

Ok, so which is the screwup, not giving the data, or the giving up of data?

Re:Meta Screwup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455014)

Ok, so which is the screwup, not giving the data, or the giving up of data?

Denying that you collect the data, or collecting the data in the first place ?

Re:Meta Screwup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455194)

The big screwup is announcing they collected the data before destroying it, allowing governments to get their paws on it. And we all know the governments will never destroy it. Collecting the data was bad, but insignificant compared to this.

Re:Meta Screwup? (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455302)

The big screwup is getting caught at collecting it.

Re:Meta Screwup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32456084)

Bigger screw-up happening right now in a dark basement somewhere - making backups of (the) data before handing it "all" over...

Play for time while the slaves furiously make copies.

Governments now have all the dirty work done, "free".

Win-win for the big guys. As always.

Not good (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455006)

I trust Google more than German officials, really... (I'm speaking as a German citizen)

Re:Not good (1)

denmarkw00t (892627) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455072)

It's not an issue of whose hands the data is in now - Google shouldn't have had it in the first place, although maybe it WAS ok, depends on if they used the data. Also, the fact that they didn't do anything to filter it or destroy it after a certain period, or inform local authorities it would be collecting the data, are all probably at issue here.

Re:Not good (5, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455466)

``I trust Google more than German officials''

I wouldn't. Both Google and German government are made up of people. There will be good people and bad people in both organizations.

The major differences are that the the German government has a rather limited sphere of influence and you have some control over it through elections and other measures, like demonstrations, campaigns, founding your own party, etc. You vote along with a lot of citizens who are in the same boat as you are.

On the other hand, Google operates world-wide, and I doubt that you have a lot of control over their actions unless you work for them. Sure, you can buy shares and have a vote, but it will be your vote among that of a lot of people who don't know and/or don't care what happens in Germany.

Speaking for myself, I would rather keep my data away from both the government and large multinational companies. I am certainly no more comfortable with Google having it than with my (Dutch) government having it. And, as this case demonstrates, it doesn't necessarily matter who collects the data - you may be more comfortable with Google collecting it than with your government collecting it, but it looks like now both Google and the government are going to have it.

Re:Not good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455802)

The major differences are that the the German government has a rather limited sphere of influence and you have some control over it through elections and other measures, like demonstrations, campaigns, founding your own party, etc. You vote along with a lot of citizens who are in the same boat as you are.

My, aren't you a funny one.

German cops give you a thorough beat-down if you go to demonstrations. Elections are a worthless show; as in any so-called democracy.

The German government/agencies regularly ruin lives because they are fucking incompetent morons or plain corrupt. Granted, the data protection agency is one of the more benevolent ones; they surprisingly often work for instead of against citizens.

The government has the authority, malice and enough brain-dead enforcers to screw you over. Google not so much; I bet any Google employee is less likely to screw up than those fucks in the German parliament, police and courts.

Re:Not good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455894)

Alt.Governments.nazi-like

Of course if you said this in Germany you would likely be shot. Making it even the more true.

Re:Not good (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455924)

I wouldn't. Both Google and German government are made up of people.

But, in the German government, one of those people is HITLER!

Google screwed up... (3, Insightful)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455010)

...so now people's personal data is now in the hands of the relevant governments. I'm not sure this helps the situation.

Re:Google screwed up... (2, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455122)

I approach the whole thing with a big "meh."

The common Slashdot mindsets of "teh Gubament shouldn't have that data!!" and "if they didn't want anyone to see it, folks should've encrypted it!!" are not mutually exclusive.

Fact is, if the government(s) really wanted to sniff cleartext data broadcast via Wifi, they'd be doing it. In fact, I'd be very surprised if they haven't been sniffing things [wikipedia.org] for a long time.

So if someone else happens to gather up some cleartext data by accident, and the government(s) demand it to be delivered to them, all I can say is this: Gosh, folks. As far as we can tell, WPA2 with AES is plenty safe at the moment, and you're a fool if you're using neither that nor some other form of encryption. And while I don't think that the government(s) should be able to do demand that the data be turned over to them, it is rather in-keeping with the general rule of things: When the government learns that you have a pile of stuff that doesn't belong to you, do they simply ask you to destroy it? No! They take it away.

Meanwhile, I've been doing a lot of wardriving for a while, recording SSIDs, BSSIDs, and GPS coordinates on my Droid, just because it's interesting to me. Even in the short time (half a year, or so) that I've been doing this, I've seen a big increase in encryption usage in my area. This is a Good Thing, An important unintended side-effect of stories about this Google oops is that they will certainly help keep the trend toward encryption moving [wigle.net] .

Re:Google screwed up... (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455218)

I agree, but I really do think that Google's data collection was in error, and they're far less likely to use it for blatant evil than the governments would.

Also, glad to see someone else like Coil.

Re:Google screwed up... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455276)

Spoiler: they already have your personal data.

Destroy? (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455036)

If the information has the potential to be misused at an uncertain future date wouldn't it better be prudent to just outright delete it?

Sometimes retaining information is worse than losing it.

Re:Destroy? (2, Insightful)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455054)

Only works if you can unsee said information.

Re:Destroy? (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455070)

Has anyone seen all of the automated collection? Should Google be burning select back-up tapes?

Yea sure (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455084)

Exactly how do you ACCIDENTALLY capture this information?

I call bullshit

Re:Yea sure (1)

micksam7 (1026240) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455120)

Likely a configuration issue, keeping raw data around for debug info then forgetting to turn it off before deploying it. Google has been wanting to capture network SSIDs and GPS coordinates [war drivers have been doing this for years], likely for cell/laptop location data, but accidentally grabbed all raw packets instead.

Re:Yea sure (2, Insightful)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455136)

Simple: by recording everything without verifying whether said data should be record. Capturing everything is easier than implementing filters, especially if storage space is not an issue.

Re:Yea sure (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455142)

It's not that complicated. While purposely collecting MAC/SSID data, they accidentally also collected payload data.

at the end of the day... (3, Insightful)

powerspike (729889) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455094)

Really i don't see a problem with what google did, apparently it was only open networks etc, having an open wireless device in your house would be like not having curtains on your windows, if your not going to "stop" people from looking in, you've got nothing to complain about. If they were only taking samples, there shouldn't be much of an issue, because you where broadcasting the data to the public anyway...

Re:at the end of the day... (1)

Ziekheid (1427027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455156)

If someone leaves the door of his house open you could say it's pretty damn stupid but it doesn't mean walking in and going through someone's stuff is the normal thing to do. Wardriving is something people did (and do?) for the fun of it, it's not major corporations doing it on a massive scale to collect data on people, it's illegal too btw in some countries.

Re:at the end of the day... (2, Insightful)

grantek (979387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455222)

This isn't walking into someone's house through an open door, it's taking photos from the street, and I have no idea why people thing it's different to Street View - as GP said if there's no curtains on your windows people will be able to see in.

Re:at the end of the day... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455318)

As a European commenter said in the last story on this issue (exactly how many do we need?), they have these weird ideas about privacy over there. Apparently it's not enough that something was visible or broadcast in public. Under the rules Google didn't have the right to collect this stuff.

Stupid, restrictive, fascist even, but there ya go.

Re:at the end of the day... (1)

BenevolentP (1220914) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456068)

Picking your comment to reply to more or less randomly.
- You can look at a house or make a photo of it. You can overhear a conversation. You're also not a massive database that lives on making everything they get searchable.
- People are not stupid because they dont know about router security. They know that they can access the internet if they connect those boxes to their phone line. You overestimate most peoples basic understanding of what the internet is
- In restrictive, fascist germany the Ministry of justice (or websites in general) is not allowed to store the IP Adresses [google.com] of the visitors of it's website. I have absolutely no idea why they let google get away with storing them for SIX MONTHS so far.
- Yes, i used google translator for that link :)

Re:at the end of the day... (1)

Pastis (145655) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455390)

> This isn't walking into someone's house through
> an open door, it's taking photos from the street

Not even that: it's hearing from the street that there were people talking from the house at that particular moment (not necessarily even hearing what they were saying).

If you don't want them to hear that you are talking and what you are saying, hide your SSID and encrypt your communications. Done.

The only illegal problem I could see is the large scale of the information gathering. Personally, as an owner of a open hotspot, I don't care.

Re:at the end of the day... (3, Insightful)

yyxx (1812612) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455398)

Wardriving is something people did (and do?) for the fun of it, it's not major corporations doing it on a massive scale to collect data on people,

But other corporations have done this as well.

it's illegal too btw in some countries.

It shouldn't be. If you broadcast unencrypted packet, people shouldn't be thrown in jail for receiving them.

Re:at the end of the day... (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455424)

His Analogy works, yours don't.

Having an open wifi is more like shagging your girlfriend against the window with the curtains open... you can't complain about privacy if the neighbours watch you do her when you do it in plain sight.

If exhibitionism is NOT your thing... encrypt your damn wifi.

Re:at the end of the day... (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455480)

Obviously, in this analogy, google is the fat slashdotter across the road who doesn't just ENJOY the show, but videotapes it.

Re:at the end of the day... (1)

Eth1csGrad1ent (1175557) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456040)

This is NOT insightful - and smacks of the "you've got nothing to worry about if you've done nothing wrong" mentality. Mostly Joe Public doesn't understand what the difference is between open/closed WIFI... certainly the guy at the shop he bought it from didn't explain it to him... he bought a device that allowed him to surf the net on from his couch. He plugged it in, followed the illustrated guide to set it up and it worked. end of story.

He did not knowingly provide unlimited access to his home network to his government, or any other lowlife company or individual seeking to take advantage of him limited understanding of technology.

GOOGLE, without a doubt, would have known that if they'd informed home owners of what they were doing, having explained exactly WHAT they were up to - by and large, the home owner would've told them to F^&* OFF! That should've been enough.

Not copies (1)

Ziekheid (1427027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455130)

They are handing over the actual hard drives that contain the data apparently. This means that it can (and should) be destroyed by the government now but I suspect that they will research the collected data first to see if Google violated laws by doing this. After this they should officially destroy evidence like this for as far as I know but they probably wont, who knows?
Anyway, people shouldn't be whining at the government at this point but at google for collecting it in the first place. What the f where they thinking and what does this say about how far google will go to get information through their own services?

Re:Not copies (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455292)

As incompetent as they are ( and I live in Germany), there are actually 2 possible options:
1 - The keep the data in somevaults until it is so outdated it's no use anyway
2 - They analyse the relevant harddrive then have them disposed, just to turn up together with all the data on Ebay a few weeks/months later

Never attribute to malice what can be achieved by pure idocy

Re:Not copies (1)

something_wicked_thi (918168) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455308)

RTFA. They wanted to find open access points for people to use when walking around with mobile phones and accidentally captured data as well as AP information.

Re:Not copies (1)

zuperduperman (1206922) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455434)

RTFA. They wanted to find open access points for people to use when walking around with mobile phones

Not quite - you should RTFA too. They want it for geolocation. And they couldn't care less if the AP is open or not - they just record enough info to uniquely identify it and map it's signal strength. They are certainly not planning to advertise the location of these open APs which would be somewhat alarming.

Nothing to hide (1)

PotatoFiend (1330299) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455146)

No worries sharing the data since you've got nothing to hide, right Eric Schmidt? Oh, wait, you really don't have anything to hide -- the data you're handing over is on private wi-fi networks. Thanks for coughing it up to the gubmints, they (like Google) would never use that data for nefarious purposes.

Re:Nothing to hide (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456152)

Tell your friends it's Linux, not GNU/Linux!

ftfy

Why is this still in the news? (3, Insightful)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455154)

People kept their networks open, Google gathered some probably useless information about them - presumably no more than 15 seconds worth in most cases (because it's a car driving by). Google has far more information on far more people from saved web searches/e-mails/etc. I'm tired of seeing these stories, I really don't care.

If European Governments are actually pursuing this, shame on them.

Re:Why is this still in the news? (2, Interesting)

key.aaron (1422339) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455394)

Google has stated that their equipment changed channels 5 times a second. So there is no more than 0.2s of data on any one network. Good luck doing anything with that...

Idiots should have shut up (1)

Sean (422) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455160)

They should have just deleted the data and shut up about it. Why they went public is beyond me.

The data is potentially court evidence (3, Interesting)

khchung (462899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455164)

To all who advocate deleting the data, repeat after me:

The data is potentially evidence in upcoming court cases.

Repeat this until it finally occurs to you that destroying evidence when you know it will likely wind up in court is a very bad idea. . Judges usually don't like defendents who destroy incriminating evidence, especially after the authorities already knew of it's existence and has asked for it to be turned over.

If I sneaked into your home and copied your diary, then put the copy in a safe. Then when the police found this out and asked for me to give the keys to them, the correct response is NOT to burn everything in the safe to "protect your privacy".

Re:The data is potentially court evidence (2, Insightful)

arkenian (1560563) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455184)

The data is potentially evidence in upcoming court cases.

Yes, well, whether this is okay or not depends entirely on the court case, doesn't it? I think more than a few /.'ers are concerned that it may indeed be used for court cases, but not necessarily just cases against Google....

Re:The data is potentially court evidence (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455362)

Repeat after me: What the government wants, and what is right, are not synonymous. I would much rather a random thief have my diary, and then destroy it, than for the government to ever lay their filthy paws on it.

"It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C.S. Lewis

Re:The data is potentially court evidence (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455392)

Ironically, the purpose of the law, as I understand it, is to prevent oppressive regimes from recruiting companies to collect information about the citizenry.

Re:The data is potentially court evidence (1)

Ultracrepidarian (576183) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455734)

I wonder what Nixon would have said to this. I think it was his pride that kept him from destroying his tapes, and history might have turned out differently. Not better, just different.

Re:The data is potentially court evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455738)

But when you hand over the diary, the government is going to leaf through it page by page to hunt for crimes I committed. The just thing to do would be to destroy the copy and suck up the punishment. And if you don't want to do the latter, destroy it before making a fuss, and either keeping it quiet for as long as possible, or hope that you can blame the destruction on routine maintenance or lack of knowledge that the data was evidence, or whatever you hope will fly. Of course, you should have never copied the diary to begin with, but having copied it, it's your duty to destroy it before anyone else can get his dirty paws on it. And always remember: legal isn't the same as just.

Like or unlike a digital Ollie North? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455748)

So then, what is your take on M$ Exchange and M$ Sharepoint? Both are used to munge and destroy data that is potentially evidence in upcoming court cases. Judges usually don't like defendants who destroy incriminating evidence, but we have here two packages that only get deployed when data loss is a goal or at least a desired side effect. Neither product is quite like a digital Ollie North, but do lose, mangle or destroy enough files and messages far and beyond provide plausible deniability.

"The dog^H^H^HBill's Sack O Shite ate the evidence your Honor. Sorry 'bout that, your Honor."

Re:The data is potentially court evidence (1)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455786)

If I sneaked into your home and copied your diary, then put the copy in a safe. Then when the police found this out and asked for me to give the keys to them, the correct response is NOT to burn everything in the safe to "protect your privacy".

Obviously not. The correct response is to let the police into the safe. Then lock him in and burn down the house. Then modify the diary to frame you. That's protecting my privacy.

Re:The data is potentially court evidence (1)

sosume (680416) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455978)

No it isn't. Google is not allowed to sniff out this data (at least, in my country) and is not an investigative authority. Therefore this data is certainly not allowed in court. What if this wasn't Google but China Telecom?

"Sir, we convict you based on data a foreign company claims to have sniffed from your open wifi connection. Yes we know that we cannot verify its authenticity, and we cannot tell if it has been tampered with, but will convict you nevertheless."

Sharepoint at the Evidence, Your Honor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32456060)

Since it hit a nerve, we try again: What, then, is your take on M$ Exchange and M$ Sharepoint? Both are used to mung and destroy data that is potentially evidence in upcoming court cases.

Judges usually don't like defendants who destroy incriminating evidence, but we have here two packages that only get deployed when data loss is a goal or at least a desired side effect. Neither product is quite like a digital Ollie North, but do lose, mangle or destroy enough files and messages far and beyond providing plausible deniability to cover unscrupulous behavior.

"The dog^H^H^HBill's Sack O Shite ate the evidence your Honor. Sorry 'bout that, your Honor. Yes, your Honor, the missing files just happen to include every last one required by the Court. Sorry 'bout that, your Honor, nothing we coulda done, ya see."

Made a backup copy first no doubt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455200)

I doubt they spent the last few weeks torturing themselves about what to do. No doubt some Google employee, being a smart and independent thinker, has done the right thing, and backed up the whole data set for future reference.

Don't do it! (1)

BLeyten (1825898) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455272)

I think it's ridiculous that people (or governments) have a problem with Google logging where they find and open WiFi connection. I personally think it would be nice if I could Google to find a WiFi hotspot. Shame on those that don't secure their home wireless connections, that's not Googles fault!! This also seems especially bad for Germans. I recall reading recently that Germany was going to fine anyone with unsecured WiFi connections, this should make it simple to find the "offenders".

Silly Google... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455322)

They should've called it StreetView BETA.

Great. As someone living in Germany... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455356)

...I sure don't trust Google with my data. But at the moment I trust my government even less. Both of them... oh fuck.

let's be clear WHY they stalled (1)

yyxx (1812612) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455372)

Google has been reluctant to hand over this data because it's not clear that governments should have access to this kind of data. If this really represents private data, as the governments contend, the government has no right to access it either, since the contents of the packets are not necessary for determining what Google did.

Re:let's be clear WHY they stalled (2, Interesting)

zuperduperman (1206922) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455492)

Yes, it is a nice illustration of the double standard that the government is applying. I would like to now see a class action against the government(s) to sue *them* for breach of privacy. Then they would have to either go to court and argue it wasn't a privacy breach (in doing so admitting that what Google did wasn't that bad) or go to court and admit they are even worse privacy breachers than Google (since Google did it accidentally, while they pursued it intentionally).

Dwarf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32455448)

Remember that day you came home drunk and typed "dwarf porn" into a search engine?

Well, the government does.

What makes you think every ISP doesn't have a black-box monitoring system in place by the government anyways?

no issues (1)

chibiace (898665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455746)

i dont see what the problem is. the data is freely being broadcast onto the street, sure they could pass laws saying that you shouldnt profit from such data but people already do. most routers have an option not to broadcast the id anyway.

How dare they! (1)

trapni (227106) | more than 4 years ago | (#32455958)

Shame on Germany's Government and all the others to even think about demanding the Wi-Fi data.
Whilst I believe, that "accidentally collecting Wi-Fi data while catpuring street-view images" is practically impossible, no one has the right to have the data.

Google, just rm -rf the data already!

things are very wrong (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32456050)

when i trust google more than the government. what is the eu going to do with the data? isn't the best thing to destroy it? yes it was terribly weong of google to collect it, so punish them. fine them heavily so they won't do it again. but what is the point of handing it over to the govt?
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