You know how your smart
phone helps you find the nearest coffee joint? The Google technology
that locates restaurants also collects information sent via unsecured
Wi-Fi connections – and might have grabbed up data from a local member
While Google was driving around, collecting images for its street
level maps, it was also collecting information from unsecured Wi-Fi
connections. If you were paying bills online or sending an e-mail when
that Google car drove by, that information was sucked up by the
But who still uses unsecured Wi-Fi networks? Carmen Balber
with Consumer Watchdog says, "apparently a lot of people."
Like members of Congress. Balber says Google could have scooped up
national secrets from their home computers.
To find out, Consumer Watchdog picked five members of the House
Energy and Commerce Committee and drove around their D.C. homes. Using
software downloaded from the Internet, they determined one of the five –
Democrat Jane Harman of El Segundo – was using two unsecured networks.
Balber says it’s not hard to encrypt a Wi-Fi network. "And frankly,"
she says, "I’m fairly surprised that there are members of Congress that
don’t use encrypted networks."
Harman, who chairs an intelligence subcommittee, had no comment. In a
company statement, Google said it was a “mistake” to include code in
their software to collect the data.
Consumer Watchdog wants the Energy and Commerce Committee to call
Google executives on the carpet to explain what information they have
and what they plan to do with it. The Committee has exchanged letters
with Google, but hasn’t come to any conclusions about whether a
Congressional hearing is necessary.