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Report Finds Google Supervisors Knew About Wi-Fi Data Harvesting

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the who's-to-blame dept.

Google 197

bonch writes "According to the FCC report, Google's collection of Street View data was not the unauthorized act of a rogue engineer, as Google had portrayed it, but an authorized program known to supervisors and at least seven other engineers. The original proposal contradicts Google's claim that there was no intent to gather payload data: 'We are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they were doing.'"

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What people figured all along (-1, Flamebait)

Cito (1725214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840621)

This just confirms what people were saying all along. Course will be interesting how die hard google fanbois spin it now.

Re:What people figured all along (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840785)

And the soap opera continues. Whatever happened to "Stuff That Matters"?

Re:What people figured all along (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840787)

It confirms no such thing. In fact the entire summary is out of touch with what was in the FCC report.
The entire thing is on line, you can read it for yourself. The FCC dropped the whole thing because there is no clear evidence that google violated any law.

GO READ THE FCC REPORT YOURSELF
instead of relying on a biased hack at the NYT to put their own spin on it.

There was never any intent do use this data, it was merely one engineer's pipe dream to do so.
And the fact that he MUCH LATER circulated memos that stated he was capturing freely available encrypted traffic to 7 people
does not mean they were actually aware of precisely what that meant.

Re:What people figured all along (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840825)

So, how long have you worked for Google ?

Re:What people figured all along (2)

elbonia (2452474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840827)

Probably never... he just read the report. Give reading a try, you might find that you like it.

Re:What people figured all along (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840829)

So, telling the truth is shilling now? Take off the tin-foil nutball.

Re:What people figured all along (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841089)

You certainly act that way when someone says something positive about MS.

Re:What people figured all along (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841521)

So, telling the truth is shilling now? Take off the tin-foil nutball.

Hee hee hee! Coons and jigs! Yea thats right, niggers. NIggers, niggers, niggers. NIGGERS!

And porch monkies too. Cant forget them. They will tinfoil your nutball if you ask nicely.

Dont even get me started on yard apes.

Re:What people figured all along (0)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841593)

go back to 4chan

Re:What people figured all along (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840853)

Full underacted text (other than the name of Engineer Doe, is available here [scribd.com] .

It was clearly a tiny project that got little oversight, and less review. For the NYT to say it was "approved" is quite beyond the facts. Collecting wifi access point locations was approved. But Engineer Doe went off the reservation and did way more than that.

Re:What people figured all along (-1, Flamebait)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841165)

If this was Microsoft or Apple, nobody would be buying that explanation.

Even if you were right, Google isn't any less exempt from blame, because it would mean there is so little oversight over handling of user data that one engineer can put into place a program that indexes emails and passwords under everyone's nose for three years. If an individual had done this, authorities would have punished them [sptimes.com] .

Re:What people figured all along (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841243)

There is quite a difference between sending porn thru a hacked wifi (in reality probably a totally unsecured wifi) and listing to a couple seconds of unencrypted wifi traffic as you drive down the street.

You also have to remember that the FCC said there was no evidence that what Google did was illegal. So that pretty much puts the lie to your claim that Google got off because they were Google. They got off because it wasn't a violation of law. Hacking someones internet is a violation of law. So is theft of services.

Re:What people figured all along (5, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841401)

Dude we know you're biased as shit. You submitted the article! Just give up and admit that you either have a clear bias or are paid by or affiliated with Microsoft, directly or indirectly.

However, the difference between Google and MS/Apple is that in MS/Apple's case it'd be a quiet settlement with no details.

With google, what happens? Straight up honesty. 100% un-redacted other than the user's names.

Re:What people figured all along (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841835)

bahahaha they lied and obstructed for years, and had to pay a penalty for doing so. they only released the report when LA Times already published it, so they can be "open". fanboi?

Re:What people figured all along (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840857)

I keep reading these accusations and assumptions and almost all of them seem to ignore that the open source software (Kismet?) that they used to grab data logs it all as a default, or at least that's what I've read. Is there even an option to strip the non identifying information out? (I'm actually asking, I don't know this package).

Re:What people figured all along (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840923)

Yes, he could have set a flag and not gathered any payload, just beacons and mac addresses. But Engineer Doe decided not to do this.

Kismet does not capture packet payloads when the encrypted flag is set on. There is a switch to turn off all payload capture.
Further, any SSL sessions would be captured in their encrypted state even when the router was un-encrypted. Nothing was able to
be gleaned in that data either. No bank passwords.

That they got any email addresses or content is amazing. I suppose a lot of people were using pop 3 in those days.

On the list of the 10 most popular target URLs that were able be extracted in a test run in Arizona was some Weather-Bug server.

Re:What people figured all along (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841171)

Maybe it has changed recently but for a long time webmail services would only encrypt the password submission and nothing else. The actual content of emails would be transmitted in unencrypted plain text.

I know Google has turned on HTTPS for Gmail by default in the last couple of years, that's it.

Re:What people figured all along (0)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841109)

I don't understand how you can claim that FCC report is being mischaracterized. It cites the original proposal written by the engineer, and it reveals that other engineers had knowledge of the project. One of the managers claimed he signed off on the design document without even reading it, which is scary on its own.

There was never any intent do use this data, it was merely one engineer's pipe dream to do so.

The program's proposal explicitly states that the intent was to collect payload data to "be analyzed offline for use in other initiatives." Then the program ran for three years. I think you should take your own advice and read the FCC report.

Re:What people figured all along (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841285)

How'd that go again?...Do No Evil or something like that?

Re:What people figured all along (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841373)

Biased hack at the NYT? How about the fact that it was submitted by Bonch, who has a clear bias against google? He's basically Florian Mueller with a different username.

Way to miss the point (1)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841379)

I think you didn't even read the report. It explicitly states that there was intent to use the data. It was the whole point of the project according to the design document that management apparently approved without reading.

The seven engineers weren't just people he circulated memos to. They worked on the project--five tested it, another reviewed the code, and another helped in some unspecified way.

Let's be realistic here. It's extremely difficult to believe that seven engineers could work on a Street View project, managers could approve the proposal, yet not a single other soul in the company knew what was going on or intended to do anything with the data for the two years that the project ran.

Re:Way to miss the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841801)

Just give it up, Bonch, you anti-Google fucktard. Everybody knows it's you. Fucking no-life shill loser.

Speaking of reading the report (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841415)

The report that you want people to read says they intended to use the data "for other services". You're mad that the NY Times ran a story critical of Google, so you're calling the author a "biased hack" for no reason. It's posts like yours that give the Slashdot comments section the reputation for being extremely biased and myopic.

Just because the FCC dropped it for no law being broken doesn't mean Google didn't cause a serious violation of morality and trust.

Re:What people figured all along (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841599)

Lack of intent does not excuse one from breaking the law. Last year I had no intent to speed but when I did not see a posted speed on a rural road, I assumed the speed was 55mph even though it was only 45mph. The fact is, I broke the law and I had to pay the consequences. Google should be held accountable as well regardless of their intent.

Google = evil (-1, Flamebait)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840935)

Yes. Again--time and time again, I've preached it. Google is evil. This is only another in a long list of examples illustrating it. Do not trust this company.

Re:Google = evil (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841411)

Do you have any actual proof to cite, aside from the fact that the title of the article is 100% the opposite of what happened?

Motto?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840653)

Whatever happened to, "Don't be Evil"???

Re:Motto?? (4, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840737)

I'm not really sure whats so "evil" about this. Google was simply doing what anyone else could with a computer running Wireshark could do. This would be evil if Google:

1) Collaborated with the government to alert the government about potential "illegal" activities being conducted

Or

2) Made attempts to crack wi-fi encryption

Re:Motto?? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840823)

Last night I stood on the sidewalk outside your parent's home. I used a camcorder with a zoom lens to record what I saw through their windows. You know - just in case there was something "interesting" to see.

I've offered the video to my brother because he might find it useful for his "purposes".

The government investigated me and found that I had obstructed their investigation. They fined me $25,000. ...What's so evil about THAT?!?!?! I'm a good guy! Slashdot said so!

Congratulations - Google is now the equivalent of a techno-peeping tom. And, in case you missed it, that peeping tom wants to usher in a new era of cloud computing where you do most of your computing using Google's closed-source cloud services. Comforting thought.

And yet Slashdot still thinks that Google is their friend and is still railing against the "business practices" of "M$". After all - they dared to put a browser in their OS and *THAT* is evil!

Re:Motto?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840879)

Gee, I guess it's a good thing that Google did absolutely none of those things. Fucking moron.

Re:Motto?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840911)

Yes, because Google TOTALLY didn't record people's electromagnetic radiation without their consent.

You ARE aware that both light and wifi are electromagnetic radiation, right? And that simply claiming "Hey... I saw it from the street so it's ok to record it!" is a completely bogus excuse that would never fly in court, right?

Moron.

Re:Motto?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840947)

Yes, because Google TOTALLY didn't record people's electromagnetic radiation without their consent.

Are you fucking retarded? With that logic, you can't look at someone unless they explicitely tell you it's okay. Please go kill yourself now before the universe is infected with anymore of your stupidity.

Re:Motto?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841159)

Go choke to death on a hot pizza, faggot. Stuff a big slice of Domino's down your gullet and inhale until the life has drained out of you. You're a big stupid blubbery bitch and your penis smells like shrimp.

Re:Motto?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841015)

So, in your opinion, if ANY thing is possible for everyone to do, it's fine to do it?

Re:Motto?? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841217)

What is evil for one person to do, it is evil for many to do. What is acceptable for many to do, it is acceptable for the one to do.

For example, if it is acceptable for your neighbor to look at unencrypted web traffic for research purposes (as in, not reading the contents of e-mails to gain something such as blackmail, financial gain, etc.) it should be acceptable for a corporation such as Google to do it so long as same procedures are applied (don't look through e-mails, don't degrade the network's performance).

Similarly, if something is unacceptable for an individual to do (murder, steal, etc.) is unacceptable for groups to do.

Re:Motto?? (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840765)

Evil is a point of view.

  - Lestat

Re:Motto?? (2)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841305)

Engineer John Doe: From my point of view, the FCC is evil.

Sergey Brin: Well then you are lost!

Is there a source to the article? (4, Informative)

DaScribbler (701492) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840673)

Is there a source to what is claimed in the article? I followed the links and find nothing to substantiate. Even the NYTimes links just references their own articles.

Re:Is there a source to the article? (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840839)

I downloaded it the other day. Its available on Scribd [scribd.com] . Its telling that this NYT hack fails to give the source link, and the more you read it the clearer it becomes that nobody really knew what Engineer Doe was up to, and even he didn't find any convincing use for the data.

Re:Is there a source to the article? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840905)

Sure. The anonymous cowards in the comments here. They have no ulterior motive, no sir.

There are rules, even unspoken (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840725)

Just cos you can, doesn't mean you should.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (4, Interesting)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840803)

If you're talking about using encryption rather than broadcasting everything you do to everyone on your block, I disagree. You can, and you should.

Sorry, this is really a non issue for me. Google went around and did the equivalent of listening while people shouted from their rooftops. If you don't want people knowing what you're saying, don't shout it from your rooftop. The same goes for spewing unencrypted traffic across your neighborhood.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (-1, Flamebait)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840971)

And if Matthew Shepard didn't want to get savagely beaten to death by a group of bigots, he should have kept his sexual orientation a secret as well.

Consider what you're saying. It's like condoning someone who breaks and enters into peoples' houses and goes reading through their papers and personal effects, and saying the problem is that they didn't have a secure enough vault in their home.

Perhaps we should encrypt everything, all the time, petrified that someone unintended will snoop on us and find out about it. Perhaps the problem is that we've been too transparent and open about how we live our lives, not that someone else shouldn't be prying into them. However, before adopting Pig Latin as the national language, let's gloss over the Fourth Amendment for a moment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Hmm. Seems like our right to privacy was pretty important when we founded the U.S.. We didn't want our government invading it, so I doubt we would've wanted anyone else to either. Debate resolved; there's already been a determination on the matter over two hundred years ago, so the matter seems rather dated and redundant now.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (4, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840997)

Consider what you're saying. It's like condoning someone who breaks

Wrong. There were no locks for them to break

and enters

Wrong. People were transmitting their information into the street, Google didn't have to enter anything

Want to try again with another analogy?

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (0)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841097)

Want to try again with another analogy?

Thank you, no.

The wifi data was half-in, half-out of their private homes. It was meant to be used by them, in their homes, and technology had to be specifically modified and sent out in order to intercept it. There's the basis of a reasonable expectation of a right to privacy right there. For someone to obtain that data, they have to go out of their way to nab it. If Google itself had condoned it, there would be little difference between that and seeking to obtain Zero-Day exploits to commercial systems - with the exception that these are private individuals, not mere corporations.

With all the hullabaloo from the MPAA and RIAA about ownership rights to for-profit data, we have at least as much right to our data as private citizens. Otherwise there's no point to having a government, if it doesn't uphold our rights.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (2)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841219)

The wifi data was half-in, half-out of their private homes

No, it was out. The Google car never entered their property, and yet was able to capture that information in its entirety. It was wholly out of their home.

It was meant to be used by them, in their homes

They might have intended for it to only be in use in their home, but they never took the simple necessary technological measure to make it so (encrypting it) which is not a difficult thing to do with a home-use wi-fi router, even for a novice. It just requires them to read the manual.

and technology had to be specifically modified and sent out in order to intercept it

No, no it didn't. One of the details in this case is that Google basically just used an off-the-shelf piece of software to dump all publicly available information. They caught that data because they didn't customize it.

If Google itself had condoned it, there would be little difference between that and seeking to obtain Zero-Day exploits to commercial systems - with the exception that these are private individuals, not mere corporations.

And the fact that there was no security to actually exploit.

With all the hullabaloo from the MPAA and RIAA about ownership rights to for-profit data, we have at least as much right to our data as private citizens

You do. So bloody well tick the little box that says "WEP". Note that's not going to protect you against even the most inept hacker, as its known broken, but Google wouldn't have read your data.

Otherwise there's no point to having a government, if it doesn't uphold our rights.

See, I don't really see the "right to run wi-fi without reading the manual" as worthy of government protection.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (0, Flamebait)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841429)

The wifi data was half-in, half-out of their private homes

No, it was out. The Google car never entered their property, and yet was able to capture that information in its entirety. It was wholly out of their home.

No, it was half-in, half-out. By that I mean it was being used in their homes, and "leaked" out because that's what airwaves do. Which isn't typically a big deal, since one hardly expects people to be sitting outside trying to pick it up. That's why this story is such a big deal; this time, someone was. I realize that it [purportedly] was unintentional, which is the only exonerating factor.

You argue that no, the exonerating factor was that Google should have been allowed to do this intentionally if it so desired. That the onus is on the private citizens to encrypt everything just in case someone is out there actively trying to sniff their data. Which is a distinct difference in mentality.

It was meant to be used by them, in their homes

They might have intended for it to only be in use in their home, but they never took the simple necessary technological measure to make it so (encrypting it) which is not a difficult thing to do with a home-use wi-fi router, even for a novice. It just requires them to read the manual.

There's nothing technologically complicated about using a handgun either, and using one could certainly save you from a violent mugging. Whenever you leave your home, there is also a slight chance that it will rain no matter what the weather report says. You might get slammed by a car as you cross the street, therefore you should never leave the house without a pair of clean underwear on, in case you have an unanticipated ambulance ride to the hospital to worry about. And you might run into some tourists from Spain who don't speak English while you're out. Therefore, you should never leave the house without a loaded handgun, a large umbrella, a pair of clean underwear on, and a Spanish-to-English translation dictionary. Otherwise, it's your own damn fault.

and technology had to be specifically modified and sent out in order to intercept it

No, no it didn't. One of the details in this case is that Google basically just used an off-the-shelf piece of software to dump all publicly available information. They caught that data because they didn't customize it.

They were using Kismet, so you're technically correct.

My point, however, remains. Kismet does not come standard, you have to purposely install it - usually to sniff another person's otherwise-private network traffic. If Google's sniffing had been deliberate, my point is that they would have been in the wrong for so doing. You seem to be adopting the position that no, that's perfectly alright, the citizenry had no reasonable expectation of a right to privacy there. That packet sniffing, as deliberate as it usually has to be, is just as easy to do and probably as someone glancing in your window. And that is wrong.

If Google itself had condoned it, there would be little difference between that and seeking to obtain Zero-Day exploits to commercial systems - with the exception that these are private individuals, not mere corporations.

And the fact that there was no security to actually exploit.

I think you missed my point there. I know this is Slashdot, but when I mentioned Zero-Days I was getting at legal exploits, not literal technological ones. Stuff without a lot of case precedent about it yet, such as intercepted wifi data, which Google - if they had done it deliberately, and happily this appears not to be the case - would have been able to take advantage of. In other words, using the fact that technology innovates faster than case precedent is established, to take advantage of people.

With all the hullabaloo from the MPAA and RIAA about ownership rights to for-profit data, we have at least as much right to our data as private citizens

You do. So bloody well tick the little box that says "WEP". Note that's not going to protect you against even the most inept hacker, as its known broken, but Google wouldn't have read your data.

You have now dispensed with a free society's right to have open, unencrypted wifi hotspots in order to support an argument that anybody should be allowed to play Peeping Tom on someone else's data, just because they have the technological ability.

If we tried the same argument with personal defense, society would become an arms race in which everyone had to pack an AK-47 and Kevlar before leaving the house, because any random schmuck could light them up on their way to work. After all, they have no right not to get shot at and taking the appropriate precautions are very technologically simple to learn. They could be taught to our kids in kindergarten.

And I'm pointing out that the point of having a government is to preserve our rights against those who would encroach upon them, precisely so that society doesn't have to become a situation in which the best-armed, or the most-technologically-literate, or the most-anything-else, don't hold the rest of us in sway. The point, in short, is to have a reasonable expectation of a society which upholds our rights and freedoms. So that we don't have to all go out with Kevlar and AK's every day.

Otherwise there's no point to having a government, if it doesn't uphold our rights.

See, I don't really see the "right to run wi-fi without reading the manual" as worthy of government protection.

Hopefully you now understand the point I'm trying to make there, and aren't just trying to avoid hearing it.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841649)

...packet sniffing, as deliberate as it usually has to be, is just as easy to do and probably as someone glancing in your window. And that is wrong.

How easy it is to do depends very much on who you are. My problem with things like this is it actually encourages bad security. If we go around telling people that it's ok to just demand the world turn around when they do the digital equivalent of walking down the street naked, are they really better off than if we tell them "Hey, there's this check box you can set on your router that makes it all but impossible for people to snoop on you. If you don't check it, ANYBODY who bothers to try will see everything you do."?

It's all well and good to have laws about this stuff. We COULD enact a law making sniffing unencrypted WiFi illegal. IMO, it's far far better to just encrypt the damn thing and be done with it than hope when someone does capture your traffic, that you'll find out. Realistically, unless it's a high profile case like this, you'll never know.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841769)

...packet sniffing, as deliberate as it usually has to be, is just as easy to do and probably as someone glancing in your window. And that is wrong.

How easy it is to do depends very much on who you are. My problem with things like this is it actually encourages bad security. If we go around telling people that it's ok to just demand the world turn around when they do the digital equivalent of walking down the street naked, are they really better off than if we tell them "Hey, there's this check box you can set on your router that makes it all but impossible for people to snoop on you. If you don't check it, ANYBODY who bothers to try will see everything you do."?

I can appreciate that. It's a very noble sentiment, and I feel it myself.

What I have to keep in check, though, is that a desire to shape public policy - even in this case for something like technological education - does not enable myself or anyone else to remake the law in ways that violates someone's rights. The desire to reshape society for what often started out as noble goals as you've described, is now often misused when politicians play on emotions to gain public support for further erosion and inroads into the legal structure and the political assessment about what rights we have. Two hundred years of this stuff has caused the the average person to misremember the basis of the political and legal structure that prior generations of citizens had designed. And this is all to the temporary benefit of politicians in power. So I'm careful to keep my ideas of "what's right for people" from coloring my determinations about their rights, and must refer to what had originally been put in place. Common sense dictates that, legally, personal data is private and since you can't get at it without trying you have every reason to expect privacy.

We both know that's not true technologically, but from a legal standpoint it could work. There are any number of things which could be done technologically, that are against the law. Since the laws were designed to uphold rights, this should probably be one of them - and my understanding of American Common Law is that it probably already is. Common Law doesn't rely on a lot of legislation being passed, but on the operation of basic rights in a common sense manner.

It's all well and good to have laws about this stuff. We COULD enact a law making sniffing unencrypted WiFi illegal. IMO, it's far far better to just encrypt the damn thing and be done with it than hope when someone does capture your traffic, that you'll find out. Realistically, unless it's a high profile case like this, you'll never know.

You're talking about passing legislation specifically forbidding it. I think it probably makes sense, to deter people from packet sniffing personal data. Yes, from a technological standpoint people should probably be encrypting anyway. And if the cost-to-benefit ratio prompts them to do that, they will. The law, however, isn't supposed to tamper with the cost-to-benefit ratios of people who aren't violating the rights of others, just to prompt them into one choice or another. That would violate freedom as well, and today it happens frequently when politicians attempt to set public policies. They're not supposed to. The law is there to preserve rights, and by making a determination about whether rights to personal data privacy are guaranteed or not, the law would be doing its job.

I think it's already done this, but clarifying it would be good if there's public disagreement about that point.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841749)

No, it was half-in, half-out. By that I mean it was being used in their homes, and "leaked" out because that's what airwaves do. Which isn't typically a big deal, since one hardly expects people to be sitting outside trying to pick it up.

Yes. In other words, you need to consider more than just the most common case. You also need to consider edge cases, and the potential damage versus the likelihood versus the difficulty to mitigate. In this case, the edge case is likely - anyone with a laptop could do it, and have been known to (see wardriving), the damage is potentially severe - especially if you do stupid stuff like sending sensitive data in the clear over email, and the difficulty to mitigate is trivial.

There's nothing technologically complicated about using a handgun either, and using one could certainly save you from a violent mugging.

No. However, securing your router doesn't inflict bodily harm on a human being, require special licensing, or open you to the possibility of charges arising from its use (yet). Are you sure you're not BadAnalogyGuy in drag? Having a gun is a complex piece of mitigation, involving training and licensing, and may not even be effective, as presence of a firearm might prevent, or it might provoke escalation. Better mitigation would simply be not to go to dangerous areas at night. Not foolproof, but it reduces the chances of occurrence down to the point where I've never been mugged in my life.

Whenever you leave your home, there is also a slight chance that it will rain no matter what the weather report says.

Which is why I keep an umbrella in the car.

You might get slammed by a car as you cross the street, therefore you should never leave the house without a pair of clean underwear on, in case you have an unanticipated ambulance ride to the hospital to worry about

And that's at a level of severity I really don't worry about. For various values of "clean" anyway.

And you might run into some tourists from Spain who don't speak English while you're out.

Again, level of severity is negligible. Why do I care if I can speak to the tourists or not?

Therefore, you should never leave the house without a loaded handgun, a large umbrella, a pair of clean underwear on, and a Spanish-to-English translation dictionary. Otherwise, it's your own damn fault.

Well, if you get caught in the rain without an umbrella, yes, it is your own damn fault. What do you want, the government to outlaw rain?

My point, however, remains. Kismet does not come standard, you have to purposely install it - usually to sniff another person's otherwise-private network traffic.

Your threshold for "modification" seems to be unrealistically low - considering that would mean my grandma's computer with Open Office on it would be considered "specially modified technology".

And a wireless router does not come standard either. You need to purposely install it, usually to transmit information. If you wish to restrict the information it transmits, it behoves you to configure it so it operates in a way that you see fit. If you do not have the time or the capacity to read a simple instruction manual, then you should hire someone who does. The 12 year old kid down the street charges reasonable rates I hear. If you don't understand the device you installed, nor had an informed person configure it for you, then yes, you were negligent and the fact that you didn't know that you were shouting your information for all to hear merely emphasizes that point.

You seem to be adopting the position that no, that's perfectly alright, the citizenry had no reasonable expectation of a right to privacy there. That packet sniffing, as deliberate as it usually has to be, is just as easy to do and probably as someone glancing in your window.

Yes, that's true.

And that is wrong.

No, that's right.

You have now dispensed with a free society's right to have open, unencrypted wifi hotspots in order to support an argument that anybody should be allowed to play Peeping Tom on someone else's data, just because they have the technological ability.

You already had. After all, you wouldn't connect to an open, unencrypted wi-fi hotspot if doing so was a criminal act (as you want to make it). And no, wi-fi free, open wi-fi hotspots are perfectly viable under my model. You just do what any person with a clue does now, and don't transmit secure information over a wi-fi network you're willing for other people to use.

If we tried the same argument with personal defense, society would become an arms race in which everyone had to pack an AK-47 and Kevlar before leaving the house, because any random schmuck could light them up on their way to work

Possibly because there's a distinction between a wi-fi network and an assault rifle. You may not have been aware of that, but I'd probably look into it before you go down to the range next time if I was you. It might save you looking a little silly.

Hopefully you now understand the point I'm trying to make there, and aren't just trying to avoid hearing it.

I knew the point you were making long before this post. It's a stupid point. You have the right to your own data. You have the right to encrypt it. If someone tries to crack your encryption, the government should lock them up. If they break into your house to steal your unencrypted data, the government should lock them up.

If they read the data you broadcast in the clear when you don't want them to, you're a moron. Sadly, that cannot be fixed by legislation.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (2)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841003)

Oooh, let me try. It's like two people having sex in their street-facing bedroom without closing the curtains, and complaining when a passerby sees them.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (2)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841181)

You're right of course.

Sending out vans en masse to peoples' neighborhoods with equipment and software that's specifically designed to pluck wifi traffic out of the airwaves is no different from strolling down the sidewalk and happening to glance into someone's window. Why, just the other day I was on my way home, glanced over, and idly picked up several packets of someone's e-mail and a bit of their usenet traffic before I could think to look away. How silly of me.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841225)

If you had a laptop with you, you probably did.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841261)

Yes, when do we go after Microsoft for leaving that packet sniffing option on as a default installation option?

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841755)

Why would we?

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (4, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841385)

Consider what you're saying. It's like condoning someone who breaks and enters into peoples' houses and goes reading through their papers and personal effects, and saying the problem is that they didn't have a secure enough vault in their home.

No, that's not remotely what I'm saying, and your Matthew Shepard comparison is wildly off base.

If you have unencrypted WiFi, you are broadcasting, quite literally, whatever you're doing. All I'm saying is if you're out in public, people can take your picture. You might not like it, but they can. If you yell at your wife on the front porch or in the house if you're loud enough, the neighbors can hear you. I'm not saying you need to encrypt everything, or that you need a vault. I'm saying don't broadcast to the world if you don't want the world to hear you.

I'm very much pro-privacy, but if you want your privacy (as I do), you can't put the burden on the entire rest of the world to preserve it for you. We railed against the DMCA because it criminalized circumventing even useless protection measures, but somehow when they're OUR useless protection measures, it's different? No, it's not. What I'm saying is that if you don't want your papers and personal effects gone through, don't leave them lying in the street for people to pick up and read.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841685)

Consider what you're saying. It's like condoning someone who breaks and enters into peoples' houses and goes reading through their papers and personal effects, and saying the problem is that they didn't have a secure enough vault in their home.

No, that's not remotely what I'm saying, and your Matthew Shepard comparison is wildly off base.

You're saying that the onus on people if they don't want others to take advantage of them is to hide all their vulnerable points. And I'm saying that's the sign of a lawless anarchy where people aren't presumed to have rights.

If you have unencrypted WiFi, you are broadcasting, quite literally, whatever you're doing. All I'm saying is if you're out in public, people can take your picture. You might not like it, but they can.

A very apt parallel. Under American Common Law, your likeness - as well as your signature - is your private property. People can no more snap you without your consent without being liable for violating your property rights than they can take an image of your signature and print it onto whatever they like. American Common Law remains in effect, but has been forgotten amid a heap of baseless legislation that lacks the authority to actually be law. People in the U.S. have forgotten their system, in favor of a johnny-come-lately. As one result, basic concepts and premises of law ("maxims") have been lost to them, and we get news stories in which some new situation brought about by new technology makes it all seem like an open question again. It's not.

If you yell at your wife on the front porch or in the house if you're loud enough, the neighbors can hear you.

And they now have lasers that can be pointed at windows and pick up conversations based on how the glass vibrates. The laser and the person using them are both located outside the house, so according to your reasoning it's perfectly fine as well. So, be sure to pick up some air pumps made for aquariums at the pet store and tape them to your windows, or it's your fault for being lax on the data security.

If my neighbors are installing surveillance equipment in order to overhear me shouting at my wife, and they couldn't overhear it any other way, they're not going to last as my neighbors for long.

I'm not saying you need to encrypt everything, or that you need a vault. I'm saying don't broadcast to the world if you don't want the world to hear you.

I'm very much pro-privacy, but if you want your privacy (as I do), you can't put the burden on the entire rest of the world to preserve it for you.

I'm typing this reply from my laptop, in a public location. As I type, there is cash in my wallet as we speak. Just sitting there. For anybody to pick up and take! Mind you, they'd need to have developed certain skills in order to do so. But they could do it! And it sounds like according to your reasoning, if they did it would be my fault because I expected the rest of the world not to deliberately attempt to pick my pocket. Whereas I'm more in favor of the traditional Middle Eastern response to people who are caught pickpocketing, in order to discourage it.

We railed against the DMCA because it criminalized circumventing even useless protection measures, but somehow when they're OUR useless protection measures, it's different? No, it's not.

Of course it's no different, if you're arguing the issue in the context they've handed you.

The actual difference is that before things like the DMCA, before a lot of this corrupt baseless legislation got passed, there were no victimless crimes in this country! You weren't hauled in before a magistrate and tried in a chancery court for offenses "against the state". You were brought to court when there was an injured party: you had either detrimented their right to life, liberty or property, or you'd defaulted on a contract with them. That's it! Today, the whole legal system's been turned on its ear and we now routinely talk about crimes in terms of what legislation someone did or didn't contravene, but the premise of the law as something designed to deal with personal injuries and detriments against the rights of ordinary citizens has been so long lost that most people have even ceased to think about the law in those terms. When that's the very purpose for which we initially designed it!

What I'm saying is that if you don't want your papers and personal effects gone through, don't leave them lying in the street for people to pick up and read.

I understand your point. And if the data on those papers requires certain software to read and decode, that is a form of encryption. Someone has to make a deliberate effort to get at it, meaning it's not just lying in the street for anyone to read. Further, if the data is your own, you have a right to your privacy despite the fact that it doesn't lie within the walls of your house. Not because it's trademarked or copywritten for business purposes, but simply because it's your private property and that's a basic right.

If your argument were correct, newsstands would have had no way to prosecute shoplifters all these years.

Re:There are rules, even unspoken (2)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841773)

Under American Common Law, your likeness - as well as your signature - is your private property. People can no more snap you without your consent without being liable for violating your property rights than they can take an image of your signature and print it onto whatever they like.

Cite, please. It's my understanding that if you're in public, people absolutely can take your picture and do not need your consent. If you're correct, I'd like an explanation how paparazzi aren't all in jail.

American Common Law remains in effect, but has been forgotten amid a heap of baseless legislation that lacks the authority to actually be law.

Perhaps we're getting to the core of the issue. You're arguing from a base where law isn't actually law. I can't follow you there.

And they now have lasers that can be pointed at windows and pick up conversations based on how the glass vibrates,

Yes, and infrared cameras that see through your walls. I suppose that's what muddies the waters. It comes down to the "reasonable person" test. IIRC, it's been decided (in court) that reasonable people do get protection from being spied on via IR cameras. I think it's reasonable to assume there's not a laser microphone pointed at your windows, too. I just don't feel that unencrypted wifi streaming out of your house deserves the same protection when it's trivial to encrypt it. I don't think we should have to IR shield our houses. I don't think we should have noise generators on our windows. I do think we should encrypt our wifi.

I understand your point. And if the data on those papers requires certain software to read and decode, that is a form of encryption

No, it's a form of encoding. If you're going to claim that as encryption, I can as reasonably claim that this is a private conversation between me and you, and that anyone else reading it has violated my rights because I encrypted it in ASCII or Unicode, or whatever prior to uploading it. It's not MY fault everyone else's computer is capable of decrypting it.

I hate it when I'm right. (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840727)

^^

Re:I hate it when I'm right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840793)

*golf clap*

Bleedin Obvious (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840735)

Quite apart from the code that had to be written, cars had to outfitted with specialised hardware to enable the data capture. Given this and the "limited interest" expressed by managers, it would seem that this was an intelligence gathering operation for a US government agency.

Given that the NSA could produce this data from satellite sources, it would seem it was at the request of a different agency. Perhaps CIA?

Re:Bleedin Obvious (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840813)

Wifi signals can be captured from space? That would be awesome for the guys on the ISS.
If they wanted to read Slashdot they could just hop on one of the undoubtedly tens of thousands of unencrypted wifis below them at any given moment.

Mind you I can't get a connection from the road let alone 1km away.

Re:Bleedin Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841011)

There is a wideband big ear over the planet, its not hard to pick up wifi and triangulate its position as a result. The difference between your WIFI receiver and a multi-billion dollar satellite network delivering data in real-time to a network of Artificially Intelligent supercomputers is minor but relevant. :)

What does it matter now? (2)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840749)

What does this matter now at all? CISPA is going to get passed into law at this point. I could care less about Google being a bit sleazy with regards to user privacy at this point.

That still remains to be seen... apk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840869)

See subject-line above: All I know, is what the 1st line of this tune states on this account (CISPA) & others like it -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfpgpf6QVnI&ob=av2n [youtube.com]

* "You take a mortal man, & put him in control..."

(I hope President Obama has the "intestinal fortitude" to shut this CISPA thing down via VETO is all)

I mean, since it's much like many bills lately BEFORE it? It's got a LOT of "hidden in plain sight" b.s. packed into it...

(The REAL parts they want "in motion" are those... shows me 1 thing - the "powers-that-be" are reacting, & the only way they know how (more CONTROL))

APK

P.S.=> QUESTION: Is it ME, or is the world going a bit "nuts" lately around us? See - I've lived nearly 1/2 a century now, & have NEVER seen things as "out-of-kilter" on a hell of a lot of fronts as I have this past 1++ yr. now - makes me wonder, & worry (not so much for right now, but around December more than anything)... apk

Re:What does it matter now? (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841457)

Even leaving aside Obama's veto threat, the bill was voted against by 75% of the Democrats in the House. If it gets a similar percentage in the Senate, they can filibuster it without any GOP crossovers.

Your fatalism isn't doing anyone any good. Actually, that's not true, I'm sure the Republicans love it. When was the last time you called your congresscritters?

This is shocking... not (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840753)

Apple gets most of its money from hardware.

Microsoft gets most of its money from software licenses.

Amazon gets most of its money from people buying books and other stuff online.

Where does Google get most of its money from, to pay the salaries of over 30,000 employees [google.com] as well as campuses around the world, data centers stocked with hundreds of thousands of servers, etc. It sells ads and search placement, yes, but that's not going to be enough unless it stays on top of the game of knowing how ads and search hits can be targeted to the right consumer at the right time. In other words, it needs to continually find new ways to invade the privacy of people who use its services for free.

Re:This is shocking... not (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840927)

The engineer used existing software that happened to grab and then keep all traffic instead of only the bit that they needed. They discussed it internally and decided to fix it... sometime.

Yes, they should have thought it through more, and not fixing it was lazy and thoughtless, but at the same time.... If you haven't done something similar then you aren't doing enough.

My reaction: meh. Any data you transmit over an unencrypted WiFi connection is available for anyone to gather so long as it's done passively. I can understand the concerns of a major data company like Google having access to this information but the solution is quite simple. Stop using unencrypted WiFi!

Here's the thing: almost all of the privacy violations that people actually reference in the articles about this issue are data (e-mails, login passwords, URL's, etc.) that are already being transmitted to ISP's (where ironically, there has been a lot of discussion about them being required to archive this data). ISP's have a far less fragmented and transient view of the data than a Google Street Car, and they know precisely where their customers live. The only possible privacy violation here is with data exchanged between systems within the LAN of the home, which is a very different kind of information, is generally not that useful when viewed as a few isolated packets, and which requires a degree of technical sophistication such that you'd really think the same people doing it would also know to encrypt their wireless networks, even if only with something as lame as WEP.

"Ohhh, I love to dance a little side-step..." (2)

X!0mbarg (470366) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840775)

Looks like Google is trying the old "Teflon Soft-shoe" in an attempt to avoid charges, fines, and other 'business costs' associated with such snooping.
Glad to see the Engineer they blamed didn't just roll over and play dead on this, or it would have been Quite Bad in the long run.

So, where does that leave "War-Drivers" who specifically snoop out WiFi?

Re:"Ohhh, I love to dance a little side-step..." (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840795)

in the UK at least, they're already criminals (section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 makes it an offence to gather any data howsoever if unauthorised).

Re:"Ohhh, I love to dance a little side-step..." (4, Interesting)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841053)

in the UK at least, they're already criminals (section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 makes it an offence to gather any data howsoever if unauthorised).

So if I post a blog in the UK for everyone to see, but I don't explicitly authorize anyone to view it (the authorization is just implicit), then the Googlebot would be committing a crime by going through it and indexing it? Is that what you're saying?

Re:"Ohhh, I love to dance a little side-step..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841149)

No because when English law is idiotic (which it is) it isn't generally due to that kind of insane literalism. You put a blog online, you've published it. Any communication on an internal network requires authorisation to view. It also might fall foul of the RIPA; as an LEO I know that if I end up with someone's mobile phone I have to switch it off ASAP in case a text arrives. If one does and I see the preview I'm deemed to have intercepted it without a warrant which is obviously a big, big problem.

Re:"Ohhh, I love to dance a little side-step..." (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840801)

I have EMF sensitivity. I rock back and forward in the shower mumbling your SSID you insensitive clod!

Re:"Ohhh, I love to dance a little side-step..." (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840815)

I read "EMF" and started humming "Unbelievable". Bastard.

Re:"Ohhh, I love to dance a little side-step..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840981)

Whoa!

Who the hell cares? (5, Insightful)

elbonia (2452474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39840819)

Let's sum up the whole thing, "Google had not violated any laws". That's straight from the article and the FCC investigation report. Not one single law was broken, PERIOD. So how is this news? If the NYT really wants to do news about privacy rights why doesn't it put the bullshit CISPA on the front page instead of ignoring it.

Re:Who the hell cares? (1, Interesting)

tapspace (2368622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841017)

Let's sum up the whole thing, "Google had not violated any laws". That's straight from the article and the FCC investigation report. Not one single law was broken, PERIOD. So how is this news? If the NYT really wants to do news about privacy rights why doesn't it put the bullshit CISPA on the front page instead of ignoring it.

I find your attitude dangerous. We wouldn't have a concept of ethics if our laws made all corporations perfect citizens. We need outrage when companies act so blatantly unethical. It hurts me, because I don't want to live in the world we're building. This behavior was completely unacceptable, and the fact that this is currently the highest rated comment on Slashdot, of all places, means I might be a small minority. That scares the shit out of me.

Re:Who the hell cares? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841057)

What, exactly, is wrong with receiving public broadcasts? Yes, they're public, unencrypted broadcasts in a shared band.

Re:Who the hell cares? (0, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841203)

Can I use a sensitive scientific microphone aimed at the front window of your house and record everything going on inside?

Not my fault you publicly broadcasted those sound waves.

At some point, there is an expectation of privacy. Wi-fi technology is confusing to people, and they don't understand how to protect them, which is unfortunate, but it's not an excuse for someone else to do whatever they want with their emails, passwords, and other private information. Honestly, if this was any other company, there would be more outrage in the comments.

Re:Who the hell cares? (2)

bdabautcb (1040566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841613)

You could, but what your saying would be illegal. There is a difference. I also just realized I am responding to bonch, so this post is worthless.

Re:Who the hell cares? (0, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841177)

It's an ethics issue.

I guess if you're okay with the idea of Google secretly gathering people's emails and passwords for three years "accidentally", then this article isn't going to do much to persuade you.

Re:Who the hell cares? (1)

Quince alPillan (677281) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841615)

If you don't want your email and password to be harvested by anyone with a computer and a little bit of knowledge, then I suggest not putting your password out in plain text over an open wifi connection where it can be seen from the street, in public.

It's a bit like writing your password and email address in lemon juice on a sign in your front yard and then getting indignant when someone knows to read it when it's hot outside.

I don't know why people seem to be so paranoid that Google is some nefarious organization unless they have an agenda to push. They weren't specifically trying to gather email and passwords - they were trying to use the data (read: mac and IP addresses) to make the maps better.

Re:Who the hell cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841257)

As long as the law isn't broken, nobody should care about ethical issues? That's ridiculous.

It's news when big companies lie about their mistakes. This is about trust. Google wants you to trust them with your personal data, so this is a very relevant story.

Re:Who the hell cares? (1)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841297)

Slashdotters may not care, but I guarantee your average computer user will care, and that's why it's news. People don't like it when companies drive vans around their neighborhoods collecting their passwords and such. It's a violation of trust and an issue of questionable ethics. Either Google is bad for approving of it, or they're bad for having such poor management structure and clueless engineering that they don't even notice it going on for two years.

To quote Mike Daisey: "Do you really think they didn't know?"

Replace Google with some popular foe. If Microsoft had done it, then would you care? What if it had been Facebook or Sony? Probably, you'd be ranting about the fact that a corporation can get away with a measly fine for something that would likely land you in jail for "hacking".

Slashdotters don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841337)

Slashdotters don't care, because Google can do no wrong here. It's seriously the biggest collection of fanboyism on the web.

Sniffing wi-fi, hacking into other company's networks, violating the GPL by withholding source, making anti-net neutrality deals with Verizon...it's all okay because Google.

Cool Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840859)

Windows does this every time you open up your wireless network viewer. Capturing packets that were freely broadcast through the air for anyone to capture, whoopty-do, I'll keep using google.

Re:Cool Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841209)

Wow, really? Windows network viewer stores and indexes people's passwords and mail?

Windows network viewer, the ultimate hacker's tool. Who knew?

Its Kismet. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39840943)

For those who don't know, the unmentioned program is Kismet [johnmeyer.net] So what if Google engineers knew about its capabilities to write pcap files? It's not an overwhelming amount of data for each Google car when compared to everything else it's collecting, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was simply left on, since I belive that's how kismet comes out of the box. The big point is Kismet also plots access point data in easily parsable formats along with signal strength, geographical coordinances, clients connected, other computers probing for certain networks unlike anything else out there so the choice for this software for wifi location collection was, without question the smartest choice. Its method of gathering data is instead of actively probing networks that respond (like Netstumbler) it instead listens silently in rfmon, or "monitor mode", and hops channels, decodes everything from layer 2, similar in principle to how a conventional radio scanner works. It can be configured to discard the pcap data, but privacy issues aside, when you're embarking on such a massively large and expensive project, I think it would suck if you later on really wished you had collected that data, especially if you find bugs and the program crashes in mysterious ways?

Re:Its Kismet. (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841547)

It's not an overwhelming amount of data for each Google car when compared to everything else it's collecting, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was simply left on

If I were in charge of outfitting StreetView cars, I'd load them with everything I could possibly lay my hands on. It costs a lot of money to send a car on a route. So if the car is going it should capture everything that is capturable - as long as that is legal and hopefully ethical.

With this payload capture Google broke law in some countries and broke ethical norms everywhere. This is my own opinion, but that's all I need to stop using Google. My account there hasn't seen a login for at least a year.

Evolution vs. Lawsuits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841129)

Funny how those doing the most to advance human civilization in terms of evolution and technological development must be pitted against those doing the least, namely, lawyers and bureaucrats...

The NYT didn't read the Fed report either... (4, Insightful)

Jerry (6400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841145)

They spent a year and tens of thousands of dollars "investigating" Google and couldn't find any violations of the law, so the make a bogus claim that Google "didn't cooperate". Why should Google? What the Feds wanted was for Google to unilaterally admit to some crime.

Those who claim Google was "stealing data" have no clue as to how wifi's work and what it takes to collect data with a "Street View" van. Mostly they are victims of Apple's and Microsoft's anti-Google FUD campaign, since they both collect the same kinds of data.

Most wifis have a radius range of about 300 feet. Traveling at 25mph a van can pass through 600 feet in about 16 seconds. It takes several minutes to crack a WEP and even more for a WPA encrypted connection. The van won't have enough time to crack into secured access points. That leaves OPEN access points. How many packets could a van collect in 16 seconds for an 11Mb/S connection? About 10,600. A typical 1500 byte packet has a maximum of 842 bytes of payload, which would total to about 9 MB of data. That "data" will be HTML code, web page elements, LOTS of graphics and tons of trivia. It *might" contain pieces of someone's email. All from Joe and Sally Sixpack who don't have enough sense to, in affect, close their blinds when they undress for bed at night, or shout all of their telephone conversations, or leave their cars and houses unlocked and the windows down or open. So, what are folks to do when they pass by, plug their ears and close their eyes for 600 feet?

Besides, ESSIDs can and often do change without notice, so they mean nothing. MAC addresses would identify hardware and Google could connect a MAC to an IP address, but gathering that information is not illegal. Besides, names, telephone numbers and house addresses have been linked together in phone books for a100 years. I can record your license plate number and look up your name and address in our state auto registration database after paying a registration fee of $50. Ditto for your house records: year it was built, how many times it was sold and for how much, the amount of taxes you payed and what is due, even a floor plan.

IF you don't want someone eaves dropping in on your wifi traffic then use WPA and/or encrypt your email and connect only with https websites.

Re:The NYT didn't read the Fed report either... (1)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841319)

They spent a year and tens of thousands of dollars "investigating" Google and couldn't find any violations of the law, so the make a bogus claim that Google "didn't cooperate". Why should Google? What the Feds wanted was for Google to unilaterally admit to some crime.

It wasn't a bogus claim. If you had read the article or followed this story at all in the last couple of years, you'd know that Google refused to turn over the data they had collected to investigators.

As for not breaking any laws, that's hardly the point. I guess the spin now is that anything goes as long as you technically don't break the law. Way to hold companies to an ethical standard, guys.

Re:The NYT didn't read the Fed report either... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841471)

Except for the whole "turning over the data" without a court order would likely be a violation of privacy laws in most countries.

Re:The NYT didn't read the Fed report either... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841751)

You're using logic and facts against a pro-corporate libertarian. That never works. The only thing that will make people like that happy is for the government to never investigate wrongdoing on the part of any profit-driven enterprise. Here's a clue for those types: the investigation might have taken less time and cost less had Google cooperated. OK, they didn't, which is their choice, but that doesn't make things magically go away.

On a related note: I get what wifi is and what its range is. Mine is encrypted as well as it can be. If, years ago, you had told me that a single company would have the resources and the inclination to literally drive into wifi range of most of the country I wouldn't have considered that a credible security threat. (Yes, mapping my MAC address to a location is a security threat. I don't especially care if people in wifi range of me know where I live. I care a great deal if Google does because I have never chosen to provide them that data and Google is not near me.). Now the best Google offers is I can change my SSID and they'll pretend to ignore my data that they'll still have? Fuck that. Changing SSIDs is a serious pain because my key is good, entering it on non-PC devices is annoying, and I have trusted visitors I've set up who would have to be reset as well. It would take months to cycle through everything based on the frequency of visits and such. So I either go through the work or put up with them having my location in their database. Thanks, Google.

They still lied (0)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841247)

Don't be fooled by "don't be evil".

gotta get over my google addiction, one of these days.

Yo peeps whats up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841409)

when did corps ever pay taxes. Its called taxes the fed does the sam with the gas tax.

Troubling (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841495)

I don't think this specific event was really all that bad.

What's really troubling, though, is the attitude towards the users' data. And it's not a single "rogue" guy; he talked to other people, even asking a member of the Search team if it could be useful - why didn't he or she report it? Are they really that numb towards protecting people's privacy? Consented data mining is one thing, but this was wardriving!

I'm still a Google fan - they make a bunch of things that I really like - but I think this just strengths my decision of giving up on Gmail and not joining G+ (besides the real name policy nonsense).

By the way, before you accuse me of nonsense like being a shill, I'd like to say that Google is still the only major tech company that I actually like. The others could all burn for all I care.

Re:Troubling (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 2 years ago | (#39841643)

What's really troubling, though, is the attitude towards the users' data.

The attitude towards people's data troubles me, too. The attitude that people should be entitled to any expectation of privacy for data they broadcast over the equivalent of a loudspeaker, for instance. If you have any intention of the data being private, broadcasting it to anyone listening within a block's radius is the last thing you'd be doing. And if you had to do it, you'd use encryption to insure anyone hearing it wouldn't be able to understand it. If eg. you didn't want people seeing into your living room, you'd at least pull the curtains. If you took the activity out of the living room and onto the front porch, do you really have any call to complain when people watch from the sidewalk? No. So what exactly did Google do that was unreasonable, let alone particularly wrong?

New Google motto: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39841689)

"Go ahead, be evil. You've earned it!"

Maybe people will consider a different, better search engine that isn't REALLY in the business of searching through YOUR life for data that's worth money to THEM. Try Duck Duck GO, for example. Just remember, when you preen in front of a mirror, if someone is watching you back through that mirror, they get to see everything you see, and usually more. Using Google to search for things lets Google know what you are interested in searching for. Dumbasses. Even if Google pretends they're letting you be private, they know what you're searching for, no matter what mode you're searching in, especially if you're using ChromX (the OS or the browser) since your computer has to send them the search if you're using Google in any form, and your computer sends out its MAC address with your search, so the server it contacts on the internet knows to whom (on the net) to send the results.

So it comes as no surprise Google lied, or it harvested information, they're in the business of buying and selling your information. Why else do you think they have a bazillion dollars, and all these services are "FREE"? As Heinlein and many others often said, there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Google it if you don't believe me. :)

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