Google Street Invading Privacy Again

Google has been caught peeking into South Korea’s window. In an effort to collect data for its Street View utility for Google Maps, Google has also collected sensitive data in violation of South Korea’s telecommunication laws. Street View cars patrol neighborhoods to retrieve images so users have “360 degree horizontal and 290 degree vertical panoramic street level views” with the Maps program. The images are captured and compiled to create the panoramic images. An error in the code allowed Google to collect and store network information, including location, names, and Media Access Control (MAC) addresses on unprotected wireless networks.

On Street View’s homepage, it reads, “We like to think of Street View as being the last zoom layer on the map – when you’ve zoomed all the way in you find yourself virtually standing on the street.” Google was standing a little too close for South Korea’s comfort, and an investigation is underway to determine the extent of the cyber snooping.

For its part, Google says it is “profoundly sorry…As soon as we realised what had happened, we stopped collection all Wi-Fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities. We have been cooperating with the Korean communications commission and the police, and will continue to do so. Our ultimate objective remains to delete the data consistent with our legal obligations and in consultation with the appropriate authorities.”

An innocent mistake. But fool me once shame on you, fool me 20 times, shame on…well, shame on Google. Google is under investigation in more than 20 countries, including the UK, Australia, Spain, Canada, the US, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

According to the leader of Cyber Terror Response Center, Jung Suk-haw, “We unlocked 79 computer hard disks seized from Google Korea last summer and discovered e-mails, instant messages and other private data sent over Wi-Fi networks. We are now working on an additional 145 hard drives, which were handed over to us later. These disks had previously been taken out of the country.”

South Korea is expected to finish their investigation by the end of January, and it is unknown at this point whether they plan on pursuing legal remedies against Google further.

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