Sure it’s fun to look at Google Street Views, to spot weird objects in the path of their cameras and to find information about your future and past travels, but did you know that the very same street view cars tasked with taking pictures of every street were also stealing your email addresses and passwords?
Regulators in 30 countries today began a further investigation into the online street map service after it was learned that the “fragments” of information Google had captured may have in fact been more robust than originally thought.
Google says the data collecting was an accident that occurred when they were running code for an experimental project that would have allowed them to collect WiFi hotspot data for location-based services.
On Friday Senior VP ALan Eustace said in an official Google Blog post:
I would like to take this opportunity to update one point in my May blog post. When I wrote it, no one inside Google had analyzed in detail the data we had mistakenly collected, so we did not know for sure what the disks contained. Since then a number of external regulators have inspected the data as part of their investigations (seven of which have now been concluded). It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords. We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologize again for the fact that we collected it in the first place. We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users.
Hmmm…I don’t think Google is attempting world domination here, but this should come as an important lesson for people with WiFi networks…Secure them! It’s not hard to do, your wireless router these days are setup for ease of use, just read the instructions and secure your information. After all, do you really want to trust your information across an unsecure network when it can be picked off “by accident” if that really was the case.