A few days ago the reports were made that Google’s Street View vehicles were for some reason gathering personal information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
The allegations were that the search giant was collecting the unique identifying addresses of PCs and mobile phones using Wi-Fi networks which information was logged by the Google’s Street View cars. This story becomes a further privacy problem for the American-based online search giant – the first one emerged after a government audit carried out last year in Germany found out that the company’s Street View vehicles were gathering personal information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Among the collected data there were phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Last time Google claimed that the data in question had been accidentally collected. In order to show they were concerned, Google promised to initiate strict protocols to prevent a recurrence. However, it now seems that either protocols were not that strict or they weren’t initiated at all, because a few days ago media reported a new privacy lapse that had highlighted another loophole in the search giant’s system.
Normally, Street View vehicles are meant to gather only the locations of wireless access points. This is a commonly used method, employed by the companies to help smart phones find out their location in the conditions when they lack strong cell-phone or GPS signals. However, the other activities of the same vehicles were not so widely used – while recording the above mentioned data, the Street View cars also scooped up the street addresses and unique identifiers of PCs and portable electronic devices that were using those Wi-Fi networks. Moreover, for some reason, this personal data was made available over a publicly accessible database!
Meanwhile, the company has been reported to discontinue such practice by now, and the information that was exposed is no longer publicly available. However, Google refused to provide any comments on the issue.