Google admits it was gathering passwords and emails via StreetView

By EDRi · November 3, 2010

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Deutsch: [Google gesteht Sammlung von Passw├Ârtern und E-Mails via StreetView ein | http://www.unwatched.org/node/2323]

Google faces further investigation in the UK and Italy, after it has
publicly admitted in a blog post on 22 October 2010 that its StreetView
service has gathered more data than intended, “in some instances entire
emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords.”

The UK Data Protection Authority – Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
has decided to reopen its investigation on Google over the personal data
gathering by its StreetView system. Initially, in July 2010, ICO declared it
would not take measures against Google, considering that the company could
not have gathered much personal data with its StreetView vehicles while
mapping Wi-Fi networks in the areas they covered.

However, according to an investigation carried out by Canada’s Privacy
Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, it appears that Google has gathered, in this
way, entire emails, highly sensitive personal information and even
passwords. As Google admitted Stoddard’s allegations, ICO is now
reconsidering its position.

“Now that these findings are starting to emerge, we understand that Google
has accepted that in some instances entire URLs and emails have been
captured. We will be making enquires to see whether this information relates
to the data inadvertently captured in the UK, before deciding on the
necessary course of action, including a consideration of the need to use our
enforcement powers,” was ICO’s statement.

While Google stated that the data was collected by error because of a code
being included in the Street View software by mistake, during a two-hour UK
parliamentary debate on privacy on 28 October 2010, MPs discussed the issue
and accused of Google of having deliberately collected WiFi data for
commercial gain.

Ed Vaizey, the UK communications minister said that although Google could
still be fined for collecting the WiFi data without people’s knowledge, as
the offence had occurred before the entering into force of the legislation
giving ICO the power to levy punishments of up to 575 000 euro, the fine
would probably be much lower. He also added that for any future services
such as StreetView, Internet companies would be asked to establish “ground
rules” together with the ICO, before starting projects that might endanger
privacy.

Italy also started an investigation against Google for potential invasions
of privacy in its Street View online mapping service. “Italian citizens will
be informed of the presence of Google cars taking pictures of places and
individuals to be posted online via the StreetView service,” stated the
Italian Data protection authority on 25 October 2010, adding that Google
StreetView vehicles would have to be “clearly marked by means of visible
stickers or signs to unambiguously signify that pictures are being taken for
the purposes of StreetView.”

The Italian privacy authority also imposed Google to previously list, to the
public media, the neighbourhoods its cars would photograph. The
non-compliance would bring the company a fine of up to 1 800 euro.

In the meantime, in Germany, over 244 000 residents have specifically
requested that the images of their households be removed from
StreetView. While Google seemed to be happy that just 3% of the population
used the opt-out system, the number shows the huge interest in privacy of
German citizens.

“Going to a website, and entering all this information it takes a hell of a
lot of time and effort, and I am just staggered by this 200 000 plus
(number),” explained Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, a professor of Internet
Governance and Regulation at Oxford University, to Deustche Welle.

ICO considers action amidst further Street View data collection revelations
(25.10.2010)
http://www.out-law.com//default.aspx?page=11486

UK MPs question Google over Street View data breaches (29.10.2010)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11650692

More than 244 000 opt out of Google Street View in Germany (21.10.2010)
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6133854,00.html

Google escapes prosecution over Streetview data (29.10.2010)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/8095954/Google-escapes-prosecution-over-Streetview-data.html

The Internet and Privacy – UK Parliament debate (28.10.2010)
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtoday/cmwhall/01.htm#d2e30

EDRi-gram: Google’s Street View will not resume its activities in the Czech
Republic (22.09.2010)
http://www.edri.org/edrigram/number8.18/czech-republic-bans-streetview