Google Violates Privacy Laws

Using its Street View service, Google has broken Canadian privacy laws by obtaining private information from open wireless networks.

Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, said in a statement that “Google did capture personal information — and, in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as complete emails”, Google also apparently collected names, telephones numbers, addresses and usernames and passwords.

Mobile and Laptop users Beware

People who already use mobile phones and laptops and run specific Google apps are, sometimes unwittingly, sharing location information with Google. When people use Google Maps they are asked to fix their location, the phone or laptop then sends Google a list of all the nearby wireless hotspots and is then added to Google’s database. But Google says it doesn’t collect any other personal information this way. Google does mention this in it privacy policy but warms that if you decide to opt out, then you may not be able to use Wi-Fi hotspots to triangulate your location.

Sensitive Information Gathered

Potentially, thousands of Canadians could be concerned about these reports and some more than others as several particularly sensitive pieces of information where collected, such as a list of people who are suffering from different medical conditions, including their names and all their contact details.

In early June the Office of the Privacy Commissioner began investigating Google’s data collection technique after several other countries started to do so. This all arose from one of Google’s engineers testing a new bit of code that was supposed to pick up Wi-Fi transmission points to develop for other location-based services, but they inadvertently ended up collecting private information that was not encrypted or password protected.

As soon as Google realised what they had done they stopped its Street View car fleet and told the appropriate authorities. Google then released a statement on its blog, explaining that the data collected was an accident.

Jennifer Stoddart has given Google till 1st February to delete all of the personal data that was obtained but they are allowed to keep any relevant useful data as long as it is secured and access to it is restricted.

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Heather Buckley is Director and co-founder of IT and business training providers Silicon Beach Training. Founded in 1999, Silicon Beach Training run public-scheduled training courses in their Brighton Training Centre as well as bespoke on-site courses worldwide. Popular courses include Social Media Training, Photoshop Training and PRINCE2 Training, which has recently been launched in Birmingham. Heather writes on the Silicon Beach Training blog with a focus on IT, Project Management and Social Media as well as offering Photoshop knowledge from her experience as a photographer.