Google to hand over European Wi-Fi data to regulators

Google has relaxed its opposition to European regulators and will hand over the open wireless network data it collected from its Street View cars over the past three years. 

Google's chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, told The Financial Times the company would share the data collected with regulators in Germany, Spain, France and Italy. It is suspected the data contained personal information including e-mails and bank account numbers. 

Last week Google said in a statement that there was legal challenges they had to review, before handing over data to German regulators in Hamburg. "We are continuing to discuss the appropriate legal and logistical process for making the data available." These issues would appear to be resolved with Google's recent decision. 

Google's revelation last month outlined that 600 gigabytes of personal data was collected from the camera-mounted cars in its Street View program, taken from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. The code responsible for the collection of this data was in "clear violation" of Google's rules and an internal investigation is underway. 

Schmidt felt the company had to be transparent and the company would not change its culture allowing engineers to have the freedom to create new products and services from their own projects. "We screwed up. Let's be very clear about that. If you are honest about your mistakes it is the best defense for it not happening again."

The results of the internal and external investigations of Google's Wi-Fi data collection practices would be made public when available. 

The Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. said it will look at the company's data collection practices, but it has not pursued its investigation as aggressively as European regulators have. Despite this, lawsuits have been filed against Google in as many as three states over their Wi-Fi data collection practices. 

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28 Comments

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DKcomputers said,
This is an absolute joke, The EU has no regard for Privacy, as we know Google don't. What a great team.
How does this really relate to privacy? Anyone can get this info. Plus, do you have an actual reason for the random EU hate?

I'd like to see an example of what they collected to see if its really a privacy problem or not... without seeing the data who knows for sure what they have on their hands that we dont know about....

It was my understanding that the German government was going to commence an investigation and was going to ask for all the information Google had. They might have decided to own up ahead of time since it would be far worse if they attempted to conceal it and were caught.

It also doesn't matter what information was collected, and 600GB would be a lot more and SSIDs, it's the fact it was collected without anyones informed consent. I certainly don't want my WiFi network being advertised on Google Maps and ours is encrypted. In Australia, the collection of this kind of information (regardless of whether it's encrypted or not) is a very serious crime. The collection of this information wasn't necessary for Street View and would hardly be useful to any consumer of the service.

stenorman2001 said,
The collection of this information wasn't necessary for Street View and would hardly be useful to any consumer of the service.

Have you not noticed the little blue dot at the top left of Google Maps? Turn on your WiFi and click the blue dot and it will give an accurate location. Turn off WiFi and click it again and the location will be way off. Clearly the SSIDs they picked up with the street view cars was a benefit to consumers. It will be interesting to see what they find in the data.

I think it was more to do with Google about to be called out by the Government which would have looked worse rather than being honest. Google got caught.

I think people need to remember we still don't know WHAT was collected.. I mean it's a good story to say bank account numbers and emails, but in the end we have no idea if it was anything or relevance.. All it might have collected was SSID's.. We simply don't know and going to the extreme isn't helping.

Lets also remember that Google could have just never said a thing and collected all the data they wanted, cause Google doesn't have many low-paid disgruntled employees that would rat them out lol.

Ryoken said,
I think people need to remember we still don't know WHAT was collected.. I mean it's a good story to say bank account numbers and emails, but in the end we have no idea if it was anything or relevance.. All it might have collected was SSID's.. We simply don't know and going to the extreme isn't helping.

Lets also remember that Google could have just never said a thing and collected all the data they wanted, cause Google doesn't have many low-paid disgruntled employees that would rat them out lol.

I read that they changed channels 5 times per second. What are the chances that they will catch a bank account number or email from a 5th of a second of data. Remember they would only catch what ever you were streaming at the time and only for a 5th of a second. They are also driving while doing this. So it probably wouldn't have time for a second capture before the car was out of range. I firmly believe they were just looking for SSIDs and AP MACs for global positioning.

if they wanted to have free hopstots on the google streetview for all to see, then why didnt they just contact the providers like bt openzone etc and places like starbucks and local pubs and bars that might have free wifi on offer insted of this mass war drive they did.

that would have been to much effort tho,.

Spacetech326 said,
How could they have possibly collected bank account numbers from this?

+1, sounds like government fear mongering to me.

My concern is that they collected so much data over such a long period. Surely someone would have to have seen what was being collected, probably within the first couple of weeks? Also, why wasn't the code used in the Street View cars reviewed before they were sent out?

Such a lapse is pretty difficult to see happening and it brings into question the privacy of Google's other services. The other thing to keep in mind is that Google aren't doing this out of the goodness of their hearts - the use the Street View and Google Maps to provide more targeted advertising to users.

Compared to Google, Facebook has some of the strictest privacy controls and yet private information is stored in both places. I like Google and I like some of the things they do, but the mistaken collection of private information is inexcusable from a company that should know better.

I don't understand why Google was collecting network data in the first place...what does that have tot do with taking street pictures?

Alex_The_Cat said,
I don't understand why Google was collecting network data in the first place...what does that have tot do with taking street pictures?

Some code from another project (which should not have been included) got included in the Street View project, that's how I understood it happened.

dagrimdialer619 said,
Great, so now the government has it.

I was thinking the same thing. I think I trues Google with the data before the Government.

ermax said,
I was thinking the same thing. I think I trues Google with the data before the Government.
Ugh, you're insane. Trusting a commercial company over an elected government whose sole purpose is to serve the people?

Besides, anyone could have got this information anyway, including the government.

Kirkburn said,
an elected government whose sole purpose is to serve the people?

PLEASE tell me you forgot to type /S at the end of this... what fantasy land do you live in?!?

vaximily said,
PLEASE tell me you forgot to type /S at the end of this... what fantasy land do you live in?!?
So yeah ... I find it bizarre that prefer to trust a commercial enterprise over a government. *sigh*

Kirkburn said,
Ugh, you're insane. Trusting a commercial company over an elected government whose sole purpose is to serve the people?

Besides, anyone could have got this information anyway, including the government.

I find this level of naivety absolutely adorable. Bless you. But please don't operate any heavy machiney.

Geoff_Vass, ermax, and vaximily:
You all are insane. I don't know what country you live in but in most places a commercial company only wants one thing, money. It could care less about you. The government while still not perfect cares about the people if only for re-election purposes. And the government could get if they didn't already know, your bank number license plate and adress so it really doesn't matter when they get google's data.
And stenorman2001...
You're even worse. You think facebook is secure? Either your being sarcastic or just plain stupid.
Interview with the CEO of facebook:
Zuckerberg: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuckerberg: Just ask.
Zuckerberg: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?
Zuckerberg: People just submitted it.
Zuckerberg: I don't know why.
Zuckerberg: They "trust me"
Zuckerberg: Dumb f*cks.
source:http://www.businessinsider.com...oks-privacy-problems-2010-5

It's exactly how the US government could request SWIFT to hand them in some financial data.

It's European data and Google is operating in Europe. The countries have the right to request the data.

jonnytabpni said,
Can someone please explain to me how those governments have the legal right to obtain that data from Google?

Yeah, being italian (but with a protected wifi) I'm really interested in that explanation but I'm afraid it'll never come.

jonnytabpni said,
Can someone please explain to me how those governments have the legal right to obtain that data from Google?

If the government can legally pick up such data in the country, I see no legal reasons why Google shouldn't be able to provide them with the data.

However, I cannot imagine doing this would be legal for the government in all European countries (hence why they won't hand it over to all countries?).