Gathering your WiFi data – Google’s business plan

Published on

Government data protection authorities in Germany
and the UK
are questioning the collection of information on individual WiFI
networks by Google’s Street View cars traversing their local streets.

Google collects the data on locations of W.L.A.N.’s, or wireless
local area networks and their identification addresses as part of a
project, separate from Street View, that, according to the New
York Times
, is “designed to promote services like location-based
advertising for mobile phones.”  The information is collected by radio
receivers installed in the vehicles taking photographs for Google’s
Street view. The Times reported:

Kay Overbeck, a Google spokesman in Hamburg, said
W.L.A.N. data were in the public domain in Germany. “What we are doing
is totally legal and is being done by other companies around the world
and in Germany,” he said.

This week Google wrote a
to several European data protection authorities describing
their project and the technology after objections were raised. In order
to improve their own "location based services" and "operators and
users of other products and services through the free publicly available
Geolocations API," Google is collecting location indicators that help
locate a user’s device (like a smartphone).  “To be able to use these
location indicators, Google has collected information to help create a
database of known cell tower and WiFi access points.”

German and UK authorities are questioning
the collection and use of the data. According to German broadcaster

Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection
Peter Schaar says he’s "horrified" by the discovery…"I am appalled… I
call upon Google to delete previously unlawfully collected personal data
on the wireless network immediately and stop the rides for Street

A posting on Google’s European Public
Policy Blog
lays out Google’s arguments – like –“we cannot identify
an individual from the location data Google collects via its Street View
cars” and “We do not believe it is illegal” and their excuse – We’re
not the only one!

Companies like Skyhook have been collecting this data
cross Europe for longer than Google, as well as organizations like the
German Fraunhofer Institute

Of course, the collection of WiFi data by those Street View cars is
not new, it’s been going on in the U.S., too. New Scientist describes it
as The
WiFi database that shamed Google

Once again Google is demonstrating its arrogant computer engineer’s
approach as it sucks up more and more information for its gargantuan
database just to sell even more ads: We’re the smartest and we know
what’s best. Don’t ask permission, you can always ask forgiveness if
necessary … Ka-ching, ka-ching.


Check out our new Website: InsideGoogle

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