UK Gov't Review Says Google WiFi Sniffing Didn't Sniff Anything Significant

from the moving-on... dept

It's been funny watching the usual anti-Google forces try to make something bigger out of Google's accidental WiFi sniffing via its Street View vehicles. As has been explained in detail, it's not hard to understand how the data was collected accidentally. Even though it is bad that Google didn't realize this, there is no indication that Google ever did anything with the data, or that any sensitive data was collected. After all, if you're doing something sensitive online, it's hopefully via an encrypted channel -- and most email and all banking sites would be.

But, of course, lots of governments are "investigating." I fully expect some less-technically savvy government groups to get confused about this and still condemn Google, but the UK's investigation has found that Google did not collect sensitive data:
The ICO said in a statement: "On the basis of the samples we saw, we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data."

It added: "There is also no evidence - as yet - that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment."


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jul 29th, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    WiFi Trolls

    "There is also no evidence - as yet - that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment."

    Indeed I would argue that many people were granted the benefit of coming to the understanding that WiFi is a freaking radio station for your computers to communicate over!

    Unsecured WiFi is an open channel for everyone in signal range with a wireless interface. If that bothers someone, they should secure it and stop confusing their duly elected morons.

    End rant.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    Re: WiFi Trolls

    Cordless and wireless phones used to be the same. In fact some people probably still have old cordless phones that don't encrypt the signal at all. It's still illegal to eavesdrop on those transmissions. And it should be illegal to eavesdrop on wifi transmissions that aren't under the eavesdropper's control as well. I don't think they should make wifi sniffers illegal, which is pretty much what they did with the phones, as they do have a practical use for troubleshooting.

     

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  3.  
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    rabbit, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 2:18pm

    *blink*

    Did we stumble across some technically savvy government groups?

     

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  4.  
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    Jeremy7600 (profile), Jul 29th, 2010 @ 2:42pm

    Re:

    No, the comment is going to be ICO isn't, which is why they didn't find anything significant, because they truly didn't know what to look for.

    But I welcome the news, I find it inconceivable that there could be enough information contained therein on any one person. If you ask me, they obviously saw that and concluded Google isn't and won't do anything with what was collected. (not that they were even going to in the first place >

     

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  5.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 29th, 2010 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: WiFi Trolls

    " In fact some people probably still have old cordless phones that don't encrypt the signal at all. It's still illegal to eavesdrop on those transmissions."

    Last I heard, it was fine to eavesdrop on cordless phones, but not cell phones. I don't remember the reasoning behind the distinction, though.

    As for WiFi, there's a reason it's called an open channel. If you can't be bothered to put even laughable WEP encryption up, I'm assuming it's OK for me to hop on.

     

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  6.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 3:10pm

    Well, if the *gov't* says so, it must be true.

    Regardless of Google's intent, believing anything a gov't says is foolish.

     

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  7.  
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    abc gum, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 3:47pm

    Re: Re: WiFi Trolls

    AC -> Cordless and wireless phones used to be the same. In fact some people probably still have old cordless phones that don't encrypt the signal at all. It's still illegal to eavesdrop on those transmissions."

    Wikipedia -> "Eavesdropping is the act of secretly listening to the private conversation of others without their consent,"

    AC -> "And it should be illegal to eavesdrop on wifi transmissions that aren't under the eavesdropper's control as well."

    I will not ask for a citation regarding the legality of cordless phone transmissions, I'll just assume you are correct. I am interested in whether wifi transmissions are considered a conversation and therefore subject to the same ethical and possibly legal standard.

    I would guess that a majority of wifi traffic is not conversation between two humans, although one could stretch the issue and claim it is a conversation between two computers. That argumant is ridiculous and should be ignored if brought up. If one were to study the traffic and categorize it, the majority would likely fall under the title of surfing. One goes to a website and reads, watches, listens to preset content and it is not interactive. Online gaming can have interactive voice, but it is hardly what passes as conversation.

    So, IMO - I do not see wifi as being anything close to what wireless phone was and the law should not be applicable as written.

     

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  8.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Jul 29th, 2010 @ 4:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: WiFi Trolls

    The distinction between cordless phones and cells is that cell phones operate on as a public network in the same fashion as land lines.

    Cordless phones operate on a private voice network and it's the responsibility of the network owner to encrypt signals while using public airways.

    Ditto for WiFi.

    In both cases you're using a low power radio station, folks, it's up to you, the owner of the transmitter and any network attached to it, voice, data or both to secure it.

    Got it? :)

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Re: WiFi Trolls

    I'm pretty sure cordless phones are by and large unencrypted.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: WiFi Trolls

    (that's not to say that encrypted cordless phones don't exist. But unless your cordless phone specifically mentions security features it's usually safe to assume such features do not exist).

    Now cell phones generally do implement security measures.

     

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  11.  
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    Paul`, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 6:35pm

    Back in my day we had this amazing security device called Cat5e cable...

     

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  12.  
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    Paul`, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 6:42pm

    Re: Well, if the *gov't* says so, it must be true.

    Yeah but I'm inclined to believe Google, if not the gov't.

     

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  13.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 29th, 2010 @ 7:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: WiFi Trolls

    "Got it? :)"

    Not really, but that sounds about right. :)

     

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  14.  
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    mirradric, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 9:29pm

    Re: Can't resist

    And now we have Cat6 cables....

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2010 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Re: WiFi Trolls

    I'm pretty sure cordless phones are by and large unencrypted.

    You, sir , would be wrong.
    For example, here is a cheap cordless phone: http://www.vtechphones.com/vtechui/store/dsp_product.cfm?itemID=3964 that explicitly states is encrypted. Almost all cordless phones, and especially the ones that operate in the 2.4 Ghz spectrum, encrypt the transmission.

     

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  16.  
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    Till Mechanic (profile), Jul 30th, 2010 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: WiFi Trolls

    DECT phones use encryption, not a very strong one, but enough to deter casual eavesdropping.

     

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  17.  
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    mansonTV, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 1:55am

    mansonTV

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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