Google logging wireless network information

Google has stirred up a lot of trouble with their street view project. They've been sued for driving up a couples private drive and snapping a photo of their house and they even started blurring faces in response to privacy complaints. Now the German government is investigating Google stating that as the street view cars trolled along they were collecting wireless network names and MAC addresses of the wireless devices.

Germany's Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar says, "I am appalled… I call upon Google to delete previously unlawfully collected personal data on the wireless network immediately and stop the rides for Street View," according to German broadcaster ARD.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide.

Updated: Article updated to remove an inaccuracy.

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83 Comments

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This is really getting pathetic with Google anymore. Their infatuation with the need to record anything and everything, forever.

I'd quit my gmail account if it wasn't for the fact that their spam filter works so well. Too bad they can't filter themselves when it comes to everything they do. I'm still tempted to drop them, and probably just use hotmail/live.com For a long time I said Microsoft was the worst for spyware, but Google is FAR worse than Microsoft.

So I think it would be helpful to all the people that are arguing over this if someone could give an in-depth explanation of what a MAC address is. Cause I get the feeling that I, along with many others it seems, misunderstand what one is and does for you.

C'mon folks. What's the big deal? How do you think Google makes $$$?

It's not like they build profiles of you by datamining your every query, email, and internet activity... then sell it to the highest bidder.

Why don't you want your every move recorded and then sold to whomever wants to buy it? It's not like 10 years from now your profile will be on several 3rd party marketing databases. And as long as Google collected it first, your information will never be hacked.

;-)

majg said,
C'mon folks. What's the big deal? How do you think Google makes $$?

It's not like they build profiles of you by datamining your every query, email, and internet activity... then sell it to the highest bidder.

Why don't you want your every move recorded and then sold to whomever wants to buy it? It's not like 10 years from now your profile will be on several 3rd party marketing databases. And as long as Google collected it first, your information will never be hacked.

;-)

Are you serious? I don't know if you have a Gmail account. But take a look at the ads that appear when you open an email. Of course they are data mining it's users. This model is what pushes them to log wireless information like this article is talking about. We should be concerned about our personal information being collected. Just apply a little common sense when using the internet. Most of the information we put into social websites, emails, and sites like yes Neowin you wouldn't give to a stranger off the street. That's pretty much the same thing with the internet you don't know the person filtering through the data, who runs that website, who owns it, etc.

It's pretty clear from most of these posts that privacy on the internet is a major concern here. Now if most of ya'll would become active in your local communities and states when it comes to laws & bills that have to do with internet and privacy that would help to control companies from gathering so much personal data like this. I know this post sounds like I'm trying to steer this into a legal/political thing I'm just stating that if all this passion for privacy was harnessed into action some thing could be done about these issues.

Never have liked or trusted Google and it's quest for world domination!!

Google is only popular due to dumb a** fanboys just like Firefox.

I'm NOT trying to start a flame war either, just my personal thoughts.

Andre said,
Boohoo everybody. Google is out to get all your privacies. -_-

What a stupid post. People have a right to privacy, legally.

Doesn't matter how unique some hashed up string of letters and numbers are, there's still no way for them to immediately to pull anything useful except which computer is on your local subnet, even then there's still nothing useful you can do. Unless Google has secret affiliations with major service providers and that they provide Google with a roster of all devices and their MAC addresses and their various associated customer information, but if that were true Google still wouldn't do something that devious(If this was a timely response). There's really nothing they can immediately pull from a MAC address except the network-adapter manufacturer information, which the most it could do is tell what manufacturer produced the router or NIC.

Iv been thinking about it and i guess its no big deal to me, if its wrong or not, i think they are making a bigger deal out of it then it needs to be.

GreenDamGirl said,
Bing > google anyways
Microsoft > apple anyways

Bing also logs your searches and data mines. Almost all major search/ad companies do.

LoboVerde said,

Bing also logs your searches and data mines. Almost all major search/ad companies do.

Bing anonymizes your data and Yahoo and Bing remove IP/Geo info within 9 months.

majg said,

Bing anonymizes your data and Yahoo and Bing remove IP/Geo info within 9 months.

Are you sure about that? I'll bet they remove you from any active database they have after 9 months of you not using them and they just archive your data. They never really get rid of it.

Tha Bloo Monkee said,
Got a problem with Google doing stuff like this? Then switch search providers. It's not difficult.

Switching search providers isn't a way to opt out of this because nearly ALL websites that a typical user would visit have some tie in with google. Even if you don't use Google's search engine you still will almost assuredly end up being tracked by google or one of the companies they have acquired (Doubleclick) in some shape or form because of their ad display network.

Edited by pupdawg21, Apr 23 2010, 7:56pm :

pupdawg21 said,

Switching search providers isn't a way to opt out of this because nearly ALL websites that a typical user would visit have some tie in with google. Even if you don't use Google's search engine you still will almost assuredly end up being tracked by google or one of the companies they have acquired (Doubleclick) in some shape or form because of their ad display network.

That's where Ad blockers come into play.

Remember that Geosense location plugin that was posted a few months ago? Well, it was pretty obvious that is is how it worked since it would only be accurate if you enabled wi-fi.

IS there ANY evidence ? or is it just a politician trying to raise his score with the paranoid crowd !!??

As for putting together this news and the Schmidt quote from months ago together ... Neowin gets a F

o_0

Why do people assume they have "privacy" with matters like this ? Seriously ? Anyone can collect that information, many websites and networks collect that information online, not to mention your ISP's and government. It's NOT private. And this of course assumes they do collect it, and they do keep it. I see no proof. Only an accusation.

Lets make another one.
I report that Windows stores and sends your SIN and Credit Card Numbers, and bankaccount formation when you use their computers to MS. I have no proof, I'm just saying, so now everyone get in a panic. Go. NOW.

In other news the sky continues to be blue. No one should be shocked by this, it's just business as usual at Google.

The idea that you only have the right to privacy if you have something to hide is laugh out loud funny. That sort of attitude is going to get Google in a heap of trouble.

C_Guy said,
In other news the sky continues to be blue. No one should be shocked by this, it's just business as usual at Google.

The idea that you only have the right to privacy if you have something to hide is laugh out loud funny. That sort of attitude is going to get Google in a heap of trouble.

+1
Privacy does not exist for a while already. If Google is really doing this we shouldn't be surprised at all, Visa probably knows a lot more about you and what you buy.
Business is good.

"They've been sued for driving up a couples private drive and snapping a photo of their house"

From looking at that I would say they ruined the property as it looks run down and terrible compared to the photo taken for the estate agent bit.

Neowin really should remove the last part of the article about Google seeing your MAC when you sign up for a Gmail account. I am blown away that people are writing for a computer news site and have absolutely no knowledge of how TCPIP works. They are getting people all worked up over nothing. Maybe they are just quoting from another site, but they should at least put a note at the bottom stating that this isn't really true.

Regardless of how inaccurate this article is in regard to MAC addresses getting routed to google, the quote from Schmidt is still troubling.

"Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide."

You can have plenty of things you'd want not to be public without any of it being nefarious or scandalous. Statements like this just add to my likelyhood that I'll switch from Android to Windows Phone 7 when it comes out.

I've tried my best to not use google anymore. I use http://www.startpage.com now. However I'll admit it's not as good as google but it's getting there quickly. Startpage doesn't save your ip address or searches. I agree with some of the posters here in the sentiment that google is starting to step beyond their bounds. As resident geeks here we all understand how the use of technologies like this can be extremely helpful. However we all understand how in the wrong hands, negligent usage, and the inevitable computer error/malfunction all that personal data could be used in the wrong way. I think there's a complacency with putting our personal information out there on the internet and we just need to balance that with some common sense. I remember 10 - 15 years ago it was unheard of, practically stupid, to put the type of personal information out in the public like we do now...

thornz0 said,
this article is just sensationalism...it's not even accurate. if you actually want to get your panties in a knot, go check out http://www.spokeo.com

Yeah dude. I ran into a company that is based in the states but has an office up here in Canada - they can tell me anything about anyone down in the USA almost down to the minute. I tried a few canadian addresses and names, looks like we're a little more private.

thornz0 said,
this article is just sensationalism...it's not even accurate. if you actually want to get your panties in a knot, go check out http://www.spokeo.com

About all it found on me is my age, some of my family's names, and my old address. Everything else it either didn't know or got wrong...

That site barely got anything right. Apparently, I'm an African-American millionaire home decorator.

Sawyer12 said,
MAC Addresses aren't routed on the internet so nothing to worry about.

true, the end of this article is just FUD.
google can't know your mac address or WIFI access point mac address when you connect to one of its web server.
thus no risk of google being able to know where you are exactly, even if they have this mac address database.

link8506 said,

true, the end of this article is just FUD.
google can't know your mac address or WIFI access point mac address when you connect to one of its web server.
thus no risk of google being able to know where you are exactly, even if they have this mac address database.

Maybe they got IP and MAC mixed up.

The most you could identify with the MAC address is what kind of device it is by the OUI number. If they connected they would get an internal IP address (private). Now, if they want to hack every AP they come across, use IP chicken or similar to figure out the public IP that is great, but the majority of home WAP's are on dynamic IP's anyway so the best they could do is pin down who your ISP is. Mostly FUD.

cjbeckwith said,
The most you could identify with the MAC address is what kind of device it is by the OUI number. If they connected they would get an internal IP address (private). Now, if they want to hack every AP they come across, use IP chicken or similar to figure out the public IP that is great, but the majority of home WAP's are on dynamic IP's anyway so the best they could do is pin down who your ISP is. Mostly FUD.

Was about to say the same thing. A simple war drive isn't going to reveal someones public IP. They would have to drive 20ft, stop, do some digging, drive 20ft, stop do some digging. This isn't what Google is doing.

Sawyer12 said,
MAC Addresses aren't routed on the internet so nothing to worry about.

You guys have got to be kidding.. I did my thesis on this already 6 years ago and I ASSURE you that you can get any MAC address on the Internet if you have the right equipment. Not cheap but nothing that Google cannot afford.

Kardend said,

You guys have got to be kidding.. I did my thesis on this already 6 years ago and I ASSURE you that you can get any MAC address on the Internet if you have the right equipment. Not cheap but nothing that Google cannot afford.

This isn't feasible. Not because of the cost but the level of cooperation required by everyone's ISPs. It just isn't going to happen. If they were the FBI and had a warrant they could probably dig up these records from your provider. But you are sadly mistaken if you think the MAC is still in the packet (not package as you referred to it in another post) by the end of it's trip.

Kardend said,

You guys have got to be kidding.. I did my thesis on this already 6 years ago and I ASSURE you that you can get any MAC address on the Internet if you have the right equipment. Not cheap but nothing that Google cannot afford.

You did a thesis on this? Really?
http://homepages.ius.edu/RWISMAN/B438/HTML/ch5_16.jpg


An Internet Protocol (IP) packet has only source/destination IPs. No MAC addresses.

Brandon B. said,
Yes

Oooh, not cool. That said, is there evidence of them doing this, or is it simply "they could have been doing this"?

njlouch said,

Oooh, not cool. That said, is there evidence of them doing this, or is it simply "they could have been doing this"?

They have released a statement in germany yesterday saying that they did.

Edited by csmarshal, Apr 23 2010, 2:26pm :