Google admits to copying email and Wi-Fi passwords from Steet View cars

25/10/2010

Google has admitted to copying household computer passwords and emails while gathering images using its Street View cameras, adding that it is determined to learn lessons from the mistake.

Google collected information from wireless networks while its vehicles drove around residential streets taking photographs for its Street View mapping product, which launched in 2008. Computer passwords, emails and web addresses were copied from private households which did not have encrypted wi-fi access. Google said the personal information was collected inadvertently.

25/10/2010

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Vice-president Alan Eustace said: "We want to delete this data as soon as possible. I would like to apologise again for the fact that we collected it in the first place. We are mortified by what happened."

Google said the data was gathered so the company could collect details of wi-fi hotspots.
In May, the firm admitted collecting information about the name and location of wi-fi networks.
Seven privacy regulators investigated and revealed the extent of what was copied was far greater than thought.

It is not yet known whether UK homes were affected by the security breach. The UK privacy watchdog has launched a fresh investigation as anti-surveillance campaigners described the error as "outrageous".

A spokesman for privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office said: "We will be making inquires 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."

Alma Whitten, Google's new Director of Privacy said: "We are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks.

"As soon as we realised what had happened, we stopped collecting all wi-fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities. This data has never been used in any Google product and was never intended to be used by Google in any way.

"We want to delete the data as soon as possible and will continue to work with the authorities to determine the best way forward, as well as to answer their further questions and concerns."

She added: "When we first announced that we had mistakenly collected this data, we promised to learn all the lessons we could from our mistake. We are now strengthening our internal privacy and security practices with more people, more training, and better procedures and compliance."

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