Google cleared of wifi snooping charges in the UK

According to the UK's Information Commissioner Office (ICO), Google did not collect any personal details when collecting data from wifi networks for their location based services. Google was cleared of the charges after the ICO reviewed some of the data that was captured from unsecured networks and found nothing significant was collected. Google said any data that was captured was mistakenly gathered while they were collecting hot spot information for their location based services.

Google was using their Street View cars to collect the wifi information to help enhance their location based services. While the Street View cars were in Germany the Data Protection Authorities, located in Hamburg, Germany, requested more information from Google about their Street View operation. This revealed that Google had been grabbing data from unsecured hotspots for years as its Street View cars drove around. This led to other countries investigating the data that Google had captured.

The ICO said in a statement, "On the basis of the samples we saw, we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data. There is also no evidence - as yet - that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment." Which contradicts a statement given by the French Data Protection Authorities that said it had seen sensitive information, such as passwords, in the data during its preliminary investigation, according to the BBC.

In response to the news that they were cleared of any wrong doing in the UK Google said, "We welcome the news that the data protection authorities in the UK have found that the payload data contained no meaningful personal information. As we said when we announced our mistake, we did not want and have never used any payload data in our products or services." Since the investigation began Google has stopped collecting wifi network information from their Street View cars.

Google is still under investigation in France, Spain, Germany, Australia and in the UK by the Metropolitan Police. In the US Google has a class action lawsuit for its data collection practices along with large scale investigations by 38 states.

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16 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Google got caught did they not, would they have changed it otherwise ? It's their word that nothing major was stored or used but you can't trust any company blindly. The spotlight on Google or anyone else no matter how small the issue may be is no bad thing.

Oh NOes, they gots my numbers!
I already own a Google OS Based phone, so I'm sure they already have plenty of evidence against me

warwagon said,
The entire google snoop case was so retarded. People should just secure their god damn wifi.

They should but remember, not all of people know what to do about computers like we do. Most people buy computers and hook it up and turn it on, simple. Nothing go beyond using the advanced options or secure their data or wireless network. They don't know until they see this article and get paranoid about this. Some people don't care about this crap. Their friends or relatives help them by securing the network or change some advanced settings. I secured mine and my brother secured his network but no password. I told him to setup the password.. he said he doesn't know how. So I showed him how to setup a password.

shozilla said,

They should but remember, not all of people know what to do about computers like we do. Most people buy computers and hook it up and turn it on, simple. Nothing go beyond using the advanced options or secure their data or wireless network. They don't know until they see this article and get paranoid about this. Some people don't care about this crap. Their friends or relatives help them by securing the network or change some advanced settings. I secured mine and my brother secured his network but no password. I told him to setup the password.. he said he doesn't know how. So I showed him how to setup a password.


Any way you slice it, it is ignorance. You can't rely on big brother to protect you from yourself.

warwagon said,
The entire google snoop case was so retarded. People should just secure their god damn wifi.

The UK has the highest rate of people securing their routers in Europe.

According to Caspar Bowden (ex-Director FIPR & Chief Privacy Adviser Microsoft Europe), who was speaking in a personal capacity at ORGCon last weekend, there are maybe 10 people in data protection roles in European countries that are competent when it comes to current technology and its impact on privacy.

So where are the details of the ICO's investigation ? and if they didnt see any personal data in the samples, release it so we can all see what Google were collecting.

That statement from the ICO, quoted by the BBC still says Google were "wrong" to collect the data yet here we have Google "welcoming" the ICO's findings ... hardly something to inspire confidence in how the ICO arrived at its conclusion over "samples" of a vast amount of data ...

Tai said,
So where are the details of the ICO's investigation ? and if they didnt see any personal data in the samples, release it so we can all see what Google were collecting.

That statement from the ICO, quoted by the BBC still says Google were "wrong" to collect the data yet here we have Google "welcoming" the ICO's findings ... hardly something to inspire confidence in how the ICO arrived at its conclusion over "samples" of a vast amount of data ...


So you see privacy issues with Google collecting wireless networks names but want all of this apparently 'private' data released publicly?

omnicoder said,

So you see privacy issues with Google collecting wireless networks names but want all of this apparently 'private' data released publicly?

The ICO alleges there was no privacy breach in the samples it studied, although no details are given on how the samples were obtained. If the ICO is to be taken at its word, the data it studied should be released along with the details of its investigation.

Where exactly did I say I "saw privacy issues" with Google collecting wireless networks names ? If we dont get to see how the ICO arrived at their decision and at least have some independent verification over what "samples" the ICO studied, then its anyone's guess what really happened.

Tai said,
So where are the details of the ICO's investigation ? and if they didnt see any personal data in the samples, release it so we can all see what Google were collecting.

That statement from the ICO, quoted by the BBC still says Google were "wrong" to collect the data yet here we have Google "welcoming" the ICO's findings ... hardly something to inspire confidence in how the ICO arrived at its conclusion over "samples" of a vast amount of data ...

The ICO don't have a clue. The UK police are still investigating, they wouldn't be bothering unless they had some evidence of criminal behaviour.