Monday, May 17, 2010

Google's accidental snooping

On May 14, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and no doubt other sources, reported that Google's Street View cars had unintentionally collected snippets of information from unsecured WiFi routers. These two sources seem to be quoting from Google's own blog post on the topic. As I write, Google's post lists some 48 links in several languages back to the post, including one entitled "We No Longer Trust Google." (But they do trust Google enough to include a button allowing readers to add the post's URL to Google Bookmarks.)

Google has explained how it happened, outlined steps it is taking to dispose of the inadvertently collected data and make sure this doesn't happen again, and apologized: "We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake."

I  am not well informed of Google's other misdeeds, real or imagined, and I am not qualified to evaluate the ramifications of this incident, but standing on its own, it does not seem to me to carry the hallmarks of malicious activity. It is always a matter of alarm when the powerful make mistakes, though, because even innocent mistakes can have serious consequences. Let's hear it for vigilance.

But how many people do you suppose added security to their WiFi routers when they learned of this?

My thanks to Colin Allen for providing me with the links to the Huffington Post and Google blog posts.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

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