Google Could Have Collected WiFi Data From Members Of Congress

Consumer Watchdog wants hearings on Google WiFi spying

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Google’s Street View cars could have recorded communications from some members of Congress, involved in national security issues, via unencrypted WiFi connections, according to an investigation by Consumer Watchdog’s InsideGoogle.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-CA, chair of the Intelligence Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee and former member of the Intelligence Committee has at least one wireless network in her Washington, D.C., home that could have been breached by Google.

The consumer group has written Harman and 18 other members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee whose homes are pictured on Google’s Street View which suggest their WiFi networks were scanned, and called for immediate hearings.

Jamie-Court-Consumer-Watchd "This is the most massive example of wire tapping in American history and even members of Congress do not appear to be immune," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, which published the results on its InsideGoogle.com website.

"Whether it’s compromising government secrets or our personal financial information, Google’s unprecedented WiSpying threatens the security of the American people and Congress owes Americans action."

Over the last week, to gauge the potential threat posed by Google’s WiFi activities, the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group "sniffed" some Congress members’ networks to see if they were vulnerable to the Internet giant, but avoided gathering any communications. The investigation focused on a handful of members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over Internet issues.

Of the five residences the consumer group checked, one, Harman’s, had a clearly identifiable and vulnerable network. The other four residences had vulnerable networks in the area that may belong to the members of Congress.

Besides Harman’s unencrypted network, Consumer Watchdog found vulnerable networks near the Washington residences of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA; Ed Markey, D-MA; John Dingell, D-MI and Rick Boucher, D-VA that could have been breached by Google. The networks could not be definitively tied to the Congressmen’s residences, however.

"It’s clear there are members of Congress whose networks could have been breached," said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate.

"We call on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings and demand answers about exactly what information Google has in its servers. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt should testify under oath."

Google Could Have Collected WiFi Data From Members Of Congress
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  • Guest

    Whatever. When we set up WiFi networks, we’re ALL warned EXPLICITLY to use encryption to protect sensitive information. This is the fault of the IT people in the government and corporations whose information was compromised, not Google for once.

  • katayamma

    Aren’t there laws about handling of classified/national security information that requires it be handled in a secure manner? Why haven’t these Congressmen been brought up on charges for failing to comply?

    This is no better than leaving a document laying out on a table and then jumping up and down on someone who comes by and takes a look at it.

    Wireless networks BROADCAST information of a fairly wide area. Anyone driving by or in a nearby house/apartment can pick up that signal and dump the contents. If you’re using an unsecured network then you have no right to complaint when someone peeks in and takes a look at what you’re doing. It’s no different than standing naked infront of a sliding glass door with no blinds and complaint that people are peeking in!

  • Koncerned Citizen

    Here we go again….privacy advocates twisting anything and everything (including the facts) to get their point acrossed.

    Google streetview drives BY houses. It doesn’t park outside them and record wifi signals. Uh, how much eavesdropping can be done in the five seconds it took to pass one of these houses?

    Privacy advocates are for limiting freedom of information and freedom of choice — in the guise of consumer protection. They’ll say anything to further their goals.

  • http://www.JigsawADay.com I Wanna Fight

    It seems a little stupid they want to spend all this time and taxpayer money going after Google when they should be spending the same time and money securing the congressmen’s wif-fi networks.
    Why? Because if Google can get this information in about five seconds while driving down the street, Russian spies (and any pissed off American patriot) can get the same information, and more.
    Google isn’t out to steal our national secrets, although the argument might exist that they want to index them. I would be more worried about our enemies that casually walk through our borders on a daily basis getting them.
    Just a little food for thought, is all.

  • http://greenhostsolutions.com Louis

    Who really cares? – SSID’s are available publicly to Joe Blogs walking down the street, if anyone was that concerned they would never have used a wireless network.

    I have never come across a home wireless network that I’ve worked on except my own to have a hidden SSID, WPA2 encryption and then MAC address filtering to top it off. Even at this level its not secure, so I use a captive portal to get a windows authentication to use any network resource.

    If anyone out there is worried about wireless security – don’t use it. Not only is wireless slow, it’s expensive and easy to crack. An active network, e.g. small amount of online gaming over the wireless, can be cracked in about 6 minutes with a linux machine. WEP encryption only needs about 80,000 packets to get a 90% success rate.

    Wired networks are fast and cheap, use them if you are going to moan about Google collecting your publicly available SSIDs.

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