Google Street View cars collects more than photos

It turns out that the Google Street View cars have been collecting more than photos of your home.  They had onboard systems that sniffed out unsecured WiFi networks, accessed them and collected whatever personal info they could on the owner.  Information collected by Google’s cars included complete email addresses, user names and passwords, names and residential telephone numbers and addresses, and health details.

Google admitted in a blog posting in April it had gathered the information in a number of countries and said “it had done so unintentionally. The company’s cars inadvertently scanned and gathered information from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks that they drove by,” Google said.

Just to be clear here, the Google cars inadvertently had hardware and software that searched for unsecured WiFi networks and then inadvertently invaded the network to inadvertently collect personal information. Sounds reasonable to me.

It also sounds exactly like the daft explanation Facebook is giving for allowing apps running on its platform to collect, collate and transmit personal info on its users — “we didn’t know, but look, our privacy policy prohibits this practice. And the apps that collected the info did so inadvertently.”

These denials are absurd.  There is a class action suit against Facebook and Zynga over this. In a court of law, “it was an accident” is going to fly like a lead zeppelin.

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