Besides their search engine Google Maps, and thus Street View, is one of Google‘s most used applications. Street View allows the user to ‘walk a street’ from their PC using photos of these streets. To capture these images, Google uses special cars, the Street View Cars, which take 360º photos of the streets they drive through. However, besides taking images, these cars also captured (unsecured) WiFi data, which includes typed URLs, passwords and written E-mails.
Earlier this year Google announced that it was broadening it’s Street View product to all major cities over the world. At the same time Google decided to collect WiFi SSIDs, which they could use for their Google Location Services (which is build in to all Android Smart Phones). Their intention was to create a map of all WiFi Networks in the world, which they then could use to locate a user when it was connected to the Internet through WiFi. However, due to a bug in the software all WiFi information was stored, rather than only the SSIDs and MAC addresses.
When this issue came to light, Google stated that it only stored typed URL(s) and small pieces of internal pc-to-pc communication data. At the same time they stated that nobody had looked at the data and thus privacy wasn’t violated and promised to render the data anonymous as soon as possible. However, several governments were not satisfied by Google’s statement and announced a public investigation of the collected data. Results now show that Google’s Street View cars also collected written E-mails and passwords of unprotected Wireless Networks.