Independent British data protection watchdog Information Commissioner Office (ico.gov.uk) has launched an inquiry into accusations that Google is using Street View Cars to spy on residents of Great Britain. According to DailyMail, they are accused of downloading emails, text messages, photographs and documents from unsecured wi-fi networks as they pass neighborhoods with the Street View Car.
Google first admitted to stealing personal data two years ago, but said that it was a mistake. Regulators discovered that a senior manager was warned about the possibility that Street view may be collecting data it shouldn’t have in 2007. Google did nothing to prevent this.
According to the Daily Mail 1 in 4 networks in the UK are unsecured, allowing data to be collected at will. Google claims that any data collected from these networks is inadvertant and will not be used for profit.
In the United States the FCC was warned by Google Programmer Marius Milner that Street View Software would collect personal data. Milner, a software engineer from Hove, East Sussex who lives in California asked them to launch an investigation as to the legality of the software. He has since pleaded the fifth, and will not answer investigators.
So we know that Google is taking information from personal computers , but we are to rest on the fact that they say they are not going to use it for profit. This should not be enough for either the UK or the US government. Google needs to use a street view car that does not take individuals personal information. It is as simple as that. Germany and the Czech Republic have banned the use of Street View pending investigations into privacy laws, the U.S. and U.K. should (but won’t) follow suit and disallow the use of Street View Cars until this issue is resolved.
It should also be noted that this information is being given by the Daily Mail and isn’t reported widely amongst other news organizations. There is an inquiry being launched by an independant watchdog group, not a government agency. Expect sensationalism when reading their stories, but also keep in mind that Google does have the ability to retrieve personal data when passing with street view. The simple solution: Password protect your internet connection.