Google Apologizes for Snaring Wi-Fi Data
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Google says it didn't mean to gather unsecured data as its cars roamed the streets putting together Street View images, but the search company learned it was doing just that as a result of a request for an audit from a German privacy authority.
Google has issued an apology for inadvertently collecting the contents of users' Web transmissions as part of its Street View project, which has come under fire from European data-collection authorities alarmed at the privacy implications of the effort.
To capture a curbside view of an ever-expanding number of world cities, Google has been dispatching a fleet of vehicles equipped with cameras, and then compiling the imagery to provide a navigable view of the location on the Web.
But the search giant's cars have also been collecting information about Wi-Fi networks in the areas they patrol. Google has said that it aimed only to gather publicly transmitted information, such as the network name, or SSID, and data tagged to specific devices, such as wireless routers known as MAC addresses.
However, in response to a request from German privacy authorities who asked Google to conduct an audit of the Street View project, the company has now admitted that it has been collecting payload information -- that is, actual transmitted data -- sent over unsecured wireless networks thanks to a piece of code that was mistakenly included in the software running in the Street View cars.
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