Google Sued For Vacuuming WiFi Data - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Infrastructure // PC & Servers
News
5/24/2010
02:18 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Sued For Vacuuming WiFi Data

Having admitted it 'screwed up,' Google may have to pay up.

Following Google co-founder Sergey Brin's admission that his company "screwed up" by inadvertently using its Street View cars to collect data traveling over unprotected WiFi networks, three men on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that its Street View data gathering violated the Federal Wiretapping Act.

Matthew Berlage, a resident of Hamilton County, Ohio, Aaron Linsky and James Fairbanks, both residents of Santa Barbara, Calif., are suing Google for its mistake and seeking class action certification.




Image Gallery: The Top 16 Google Services
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)
Just over a week ago, Google revealed that a previous statement it had made about its Street View cars' data collection had been inaccurate. The company had said that while its Street View cars collected publicly broadcast WiFi network names and MAC addresses from WiFi routers as the vehicles drove about snapping pictures, no "payload data" -- data transmitted over open WiFi networks -- was collected.

An inquiry by the data protection authority in Hamburg, Germany, made the company realized it had actually been collecting WiFi payload data. Alan Eustace, SVP of research and engineering for Google, said in a blog post that back in 2006, a Google engineer had written some experimental WiFi code that grabbed unprotected WiFi network data.

Eustace said upon learning of its error, Google immediately halted its Street View data collection to segregate the inadvertently collected data and to begin deleting it, with the approval of local regulators. Last week, Google said that the Irish data protection authority had asked the company on Friday, May 14 to delete the data it had collected in Ireland and that the company had complied.

Those suing Google state that they maintain unprotected wireless networks and that they believe Google Street View vehicles on at least one occasion drove by their residences and captured whatever data they happened to be transmitting at that moment.

Whether they were actually sending and receiving data over their WiFi routers at times when Google's Street View cars drove by remains to be seen.

The plaintiffs are seeking statutory damages of $100 per day that data was stored without authorization or $10,000 per violation for each plaintiff. Because they can seek the greater of the two sums, the potential penalty could reach six figures if their data turns out to have been held since 2007.

An attorney representing the plaintiffs was not immediately available for comment.

Google's accidental data gathering has also brought attention from U.S. regulators. Representatives Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to the Federal Trade Commission last week to ask for an investigation into incident.

A Google spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request to elaborate on the extent to which the company collected data traveling over WiFi networks in the U.S.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Slideshows
IT Careers: 10 Industries with Job Openings Right Now
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  5/27/2020
Commentary
How 5G Rollout May Benefit Businesses More than Consumers
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  5/21/2020
News
IT Leadership in Education: Getting Online School Right
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/20/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Key to Cloud Success: The Right Management
This IT Trend highlights some of the steps IT teams can take to keep their cloud environments running in a safe, efficient manner.
Slideshows
Flash Poll