Google has admitted that for the past three years it has snuffling the data people have sent over unencrypted wi-fi networks.
German authorities asked to audit the data the company’s Street View cars gathered as they took photos viewed on Google maps and found that the cars had been sniffing wi-fi networks.
Google has now come clean and said it had “been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open networks”.
These data chunks could include parts of an email, text or photograph or even the website someone may be viewing.
Writing in its bog, Google said as soon as it became aware of the problem it “grounded its Street View cars” from collecting wi-fi information. This is interesting because as far as we are aware, Google street cars do not ever leave the ground other than when they are being badly driven.
Google has also said it will dump the data it’s already gathered.
The search engine outfit is asking for a third party to review the software that caused the problem and examine precisely what data had been gathered.
Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research said that maintaining people’s trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short.
The problem dated back to 2006 when “an engineer working on an experimental wi-fi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast wi-fi data”.
For some reason only known to God not man, that code was included in the software the Street View cars used by mistake.