Google hit with at least three lawsuits over Wi-Fi sniffing

invisibleSHIELD case for iPad“Google Inc. has been hit with at least three lawsuits since the Internet giant acknowledged its Street View cars had accidentally collected private data from unsecured wireless networks,” Scott Morrison reports for Dow Jones Newswires.

“The claims, filed in Massachusetts, California and Oregon, were likely to contribute to the public-relations headache triggered by Google’s admission that vehicles it deployed to create its online mapping services had inadvertently gathered information about people’s web-site usage,” Morrison reports.

MacDailyNews Take: Yeah, “inadvertently.”

Morison continues, “One of the claims, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on behalf of a local Internet service provider and its customers, alleges Google violated federal and state privacy laws when its fleet of specially equipped vehicles accidentally recorded and stored fragments of Web pages and e-mail messages transmitted across people’s wireless networks.”

Google “acknowledged the problem on May 14, maintains it never used any ‘payload’ data in any of its products,” Morrison reports. “Still, Robert Carp, the lawyer representing plaintiff Galaxy Internet Services Inc., based in Newton, Mass., said Google’s collection of data was ‘nothing more than a further attempt to enhance their advertising capabilities.'”

“Carp said he hoped the complaint, which seeks class-action certification, would ‘send the message that whether information that is sent over someone’s private network is encrypted or not, no one has a right to access it, decode it, and use it for any purpose,'” Morrison reports.

Morrison reports, “A separate class-action complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California on behalf of three plaintiffs seeks to represent all U.S. residents. A similar claim was filed on behalf residents in Oregon and Washington last week.”

Read more in the first article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Steve Jobs was right, Google’s “Don’t be Evil” mantra is “bullshit.”


  1. Google’s not evil.

    Any other company (including Apple) wouldn’t have said anything about it.

    Google came right out and admitted they made a mistake and then said they wouldn’t do what caused the mistake (sending out Street View cars) until the bug had been proven fixed.

    Also, @MadMac: I wouldn’t be surprised. He’s known for yelling at employees until they cry.

  2. @MDN Take is full of piss & vinegar today. MDN, remind me how we heard about the WiFi sniffing in the first place? If only somebody could refresh our memories…

    …someone with the letter N in their username.

  3. Last week an article appeared in The Independent newspaper in Ireland about this topic except it was about Google doing this in Europe.

    One interesting excerpt was:
    “Throughout the data collection process, specially modified cars that took the photos were also equipped to collect publicly broadcast SSID information (the wireless network name) and MAC addresses (the unique number given to a device like a wireless router). However, they inadvertently gathered the more private records.”

    One question might be:
    Why were Google collecting wireless network names and MAC addresses in the first place?

  4. @Another Irish Dude: They’d be getting the SSID and MAC address to assist in geolocation on a WiFi based device, like iPod touch.

    On an iPod touch, you’re located using the names and MAC addresses of networks around you in relation to a database, although iPod touch uses a database from Skyhook Wireless.

  5. @ Nick1693

    According to the article in the Irish Independent (link in my last post), in the European scenario Google didn’t admit it first:

    “INQUIRIES by German data officials led to the inadvertent discovery that Irish people’s private online information had been collected by internet search giant Google.”

    “…the revelations came just two weeks after it had denied it was storing any controversial ‘payload’ data, which included the content of sent emails and website browsing history.”

  6. @Nick1963… what have you been smokin? Are you honestly believing that it was “a bug” that inadvertently collected and recorded peoples web surfing and email? I’m no programmer… but I have taken a few programming classes over the year and I can’t think of any reasonable person that would classify that action as “a bug”. Ok… maybe the NSA, CIA, or FBI would classify it as “a bug”, but it’s a bug of a different context when they talking about “bugging”.

    Google was doing this on purpose… anyone with higher than a 6th grade intelligence could understand that.

  7. @ Nick1693
    Understand where you’re coming from about assisting in geolocation.
    With Apple we were all shown how assisted GPS would work with the iDevices through Skyhook Wireless or other commercial (outside USA) wireless networks, but with Google it does not seem so transparent.
    The MAC address of your router is one thing, but it appears Google has gone beyond that having collected private information (maybe your computers MAC address etc…)

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