A consumer advocacy group says Google’s
recent admission that it is collecting more data from WiFi networks
than it previously disclosed highlights the need for federal regulators
to more closely examine what data the Internet firm is collecting.
Consumer Watchdog once again raised its concerns about Google’s data
privacy practices after the firm acknowledged Friday in a blog
post that it discovered the discrepancy during an audit of the
WiFi data its “Street View” cars collect for use in location-based
services such as Google Maps. The audit was requested by a German data
Despite a claim made in a blog
post last month, the firm has been “mistakenly collecting samples
of payload data” from open, or unsecured, WiFi networks, Google Senior
Vice President of Engineering and Research Alan Eustace said
in Friday’s post. He added, however, that none of the data was used in
a Google product.
“So how did this happen? Quite simply, it was a mistake,” Eustace
said. “In 2006, an engineer working on an experimental WiFi project
wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast
He said Google plans to delete the data as soon as possible and is
consulting with data privacy officials in the countries affected on how
best to dispose of the data. In addition, it has stopped Street View
cars from collecting WiFi data and has called for a third-party review
of the software at issue.
“Once again Google has demonstrated a lack of concern for privacy,”
Consumer Watchdog Consumer Advocate John M. Simpson said
in a statement. “Its computer engineers run amok, push the envelope
and gather whatever data they can until their fingers are caught in the
cookie jar. Then a Google executive apologizes, mouthing bafflegab
about how privacy matters to the company.”
He said the incident underscores the need for federal regulators to
examine not just Google but all online firms’ data collection practices.
He also specifically urged the Justice Department and FCC to examine
the Google WiFi incident.