Google apologizes for inadvertent Street View snooping


— 4:02 PM on May 17, 2010

Google has apologized for inadvertently collecting Wi-Fi data with its Street View project. Yes, those dorky-looking Street View cars that have been patrolling neighborhoods for years now have been doing more than just snapping pictures. They've also been gathering information on the location of Wi-Fi hot spots and even logging snippets of data sent over those wireless networks.

While Google intended to collect information on the location of wireless hot spots, the company says it has no desire to snoop network traffic. Experimental code designed to sample "all categories of public broadcast" was mistakenly included in the Street View software that's been used since 2007. Oops!

"It's now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) Wi-Fi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products," wrote Mr. Eustace. "We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake."

Eustace contends that because since Street View vehicles are constantly in motion, Google only managed to gather "fragments" of data. Nevertheless, the comapny has approached the countries involved to ensure that any data collected is deleted to their satisfaction.

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