Google Street View cars grabbed locations of cellphones, computers

“Google’s Street View cars collected the locations of millions of laptops, cell phones, and other Wi-Fi devices around the world, a practice that raises novel privacy concerns,” Declan McCullagh reports for CNET.

“The cars were supposed to collect the locations of Wi-Fi access points,” McCullagh reports. “But Google also recorded the street addresses and unique identifiers of computers and other devices using those wireless networks and then made the data publicly available through Google.com until a few weeks ago.”

“A previous CNET article, published June 15 and triggered by the research of security consultant Ashkan Soltani, was the first to report that Google made these unique hardware IDs–called MAC addresses–publicly available through a Web interface,” McCullagh reports. “Google curbed the practice about a week later.”

McCullagh reports, “Google does not provide any method, sometimes called an opt-out mechanism, that would allow people who don’t want their unique hardware IDs in the database to remove them. Instead of using Street View cars, Google new [sic] ‘crowdsources’ its location database by using Android phones.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

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Consumer Watchdog calls for probe of Google’s inappropriate relationship with Obama administration – January 25, 2011
FCC cites Android ‘openness’ as reason for neutered ‘Net Neutrality’ – December 22, 2010
Google CEO Schmidt: If you don’t like being in Google Street View then ‘just move’ – October 28, 2010
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Google CEO Schmidt: Change your name to escape ‘cyber past’ – August 18, 2010
Wired: Google, CIA Invest in ‘future’ of Web monitoring – July 29, 2010
37 states join probe into Google’s questionable Wi-Fi data collection – July 22, 2010
Google Street View Wi-Fi data included passwords and email – June 18, 2010

36 Comments

  1. “Google does not provide any method… that would allow people who don’t want their unique hardware IDs in the database to remove them.”

    And EVEN IF they did — as if the general public would even know what that means or what to do.

    1. Heck, broadcasters have been doing exactly this since forever. Google and others are doing what comes naturally to this type of service – they turn their service users into the product.

      When you watch tv or listen to the radio do you think you’re using the broadcaster’s product? Not. You, along with all of the stats about you that can be gleened, are sold to advertisers of products and services. This is all that Google is doing. The quantum leap in data granularity that an internet delivered service can acquire is what makes us whince, but it’s really business as usual.

      Welcome to the real world where everybody knows everything.

    1. Unfortunately true. Scandal sells, whether it’s real or manufactured. And there’s no hotter scandal than darling of the industry’s fall from grace. Stupid, mean-spirited people love to see Apple stumble. There are evidently far more of these people in the world than we would like to believe.

  2. Googles innovate practices often move far beyond normal companies. Too bad we get thrown in the mix without protection and I guest Google will say to change our name plus the devices if we want further privacy. The dime is on us.

    Hope they innovate straight to legal bankruptcy.

  3. Once a thief, always a thief. Google’s culture is stealing, steal user information from average Joe, steal IP from Oracle, Apple. All they have done is building better stealing tool to steal.

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