The Google Beast

The phenomenal success of Google is truly amazing and a testament to the concept of free enterprise. Google is also an example of crony capitalism growing out of control with the recent controversy involving one of its former employees who now works for the administration of our dear comrade leader. (story here) Talk about an inside track to the government – ugh.

One of the most disturbing revelations to come to light recently illustrates how Google has become a data sucking monster that threatens everyone’s privacy. Unlike the recent privacy concerns involving Facebook, where you have the option to cancel your account or not open one to begin with, Google’s data mining affects everyone within range of their Street View vehicles. As this story (from PCWorld) points out, Google has been collecting info from wireless networks while photographing.

Right about now Facebook should be sending Google a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates, because the search/advertising giant has committed a privacy violation that makes Facebook’s recent troubles seem trivial.The skinny: Google has been Hoovering up data from open WiFi networks around the world — some 600 gigs’ worth, according to the AP — which is tantamount to wiretapping and may well violate federal and international laws.

Now that I’ve got your attention, here’s some background.

When Google sends its fleet of camera-equipped cars into the streets to snap pictures of your neighborhood for its Street View product, these cars are also collecting something a little extra: The name and unique MAC address of every open WiFi network they encounter along the way.

While most people have encrypted networks, there are still many who run them wide open. Of the 7 wireless networks I can see from my laptop at home, 4 of them are not password protected. These people are at risk in more ways than one.

Here’s something nobody — including apparently most of the people at Google — knew until last week. In addition to the SSID and MAC address, Google’s WiFi antennas were also siphoning off unencrypted data as it passed through wireless routers and out onto the InterWebs. That could potentially include email, passwords, Facebook or Twitter status updates, Web sites visited — really, anything not protected by an encrypted SSL (https:) connection.

According to the article, this was a result of a bug in Google’s software – at least that’s what Google claims.

Apparently, a bug in the software Google has been using since 2007 automatically collected some of this data. Google itself wasn’t even aware of this data collection (and as recently as April 27 firmly denied it). Google only discovered this after the Data Protection Authority in Hanover, Germany, demanded Google audit its WiFi data.

Since then, Google has admitted it screwed up, bad. It’s stopped collecting this data and begun deleting it, under the direction of various countries where the data was collected. And it will introduce an encrypted search option next week.

Combine this with Google’s tentacles into the federal government and you have a prescription for disaster.

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3 Responses to “The Google Beast”

  1. Thanks for stopping by, Sam. Always a pleasure to read your comments.

    Yes, I agree with your take on our dear comrade leader – spot on. This administration is the most dangerous to individual freedom in history. We must do everything in our power to avert the “transformation” of America promised by this government.

    Thanks again, Sammy…

  2. Hwy Mook. Excellent post here. What the chief IT officer of the land is doing in internet and other communications matters is something I try to follow. Here is part of what I wrote several months ago with which you might agree:

    Obama’s slick use of social networks got underway February 2007 when he met with Mark Andreesen, former head of Netscape and board member of Facebook.

    It was Obama with the idea: “He wondered if social networking, with its tremendous communication capabilities and aggressive database development, might help him beat the overwhelming odds facing him.”

    What happened is history. Now due to brilliant data manipulation, there is a man in the White House who owes nothing to the Democratic party and could be dangerous for its survival.

    It was not Democratic ground troops out there getting out the vote; it was Obama’s. This was his election to win cobbling together a vast array of people from all levels. And in the process, acquiring lots of information about them, keeping in touch for future use. In short, Obama has used a sophisticated database, his savvy about social networking and unique ways of data gathering and enhancement in the service of helping him to govern.

    SCARY – is it not, Mookie? Good to be in your neck of the woods. Now since I am here, I will read on.

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