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By: MarkJ - 24 April, 2010 (12:15 AM)
internet securityInternet Search Engine and advertising giant Google is in hot water, again, this time for using their Street View cars to map peoples home Wi-Fi wireless networks. The controversial practice was discovered by Germany's "horrified" Federal Data Protection Commissioner, Peter Schaar.

Google's Street View cars typically take pictures of every road they go down and present it on their website as part of an interactive and often quite useful navigation service; though some see it as little more than a voyeuristic tool because it also catches people going about their everyday lives and photographs private homes.

The German reports indicate that Google's cars have also been equipped with scanners to map wireless (WLAN) networks and record their unique MAC (Media Access Control) addresses (this has nothing whatsoever to do with UK broadband migration codes). The MAC is a unique identifier assigned to most network adapters by the manufacturer for identification and authorisation purposes.

Schaar has since called on Google to delete the records. Google of course argues that, "Wi-Fi location information is by its very nature publicly broadcast and collecting it for geolocation purposes is not new or unique to Google". Indeed other organisations have done and published similar data, though some people might rightly disapprove of that too.

So why all the concern? Well for one thing the largest EU countries and Canada recently sent an open letter to Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, raising concerns about the firms record on privacy (i.e. this is very bad timing for Google) - Read the letter. But what makes Google different is that it could easily cross reference this data with its other records. It has pictures of people's homes, it records their Wi-Fi networks and most people use its search engine; you do the math.
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