Google's Wi-Fi Data Harvesting Probe Sniffs Out Criminal Intent

Pulkit Chandna

Google has blamed an unnamed engineer for the Wi-Fi snooping code responsible for almost 600 gigabytes of unauthorized Wi-Fi data inadvertently collected by StreetView vans in over 30 countries. According to the advocacy group Privacy International (PI), the world's leading international company is now staring down the prospect of “criminal prosecution in almost all the 30 jurisdictions.” PI reached this conclusion based on the results of a third-party probe commissioned by Google's lawyers Perkins Coie.

Computer forensics firm Stroz Friedberg, which conducted the audit, found that the snooping software called gslite only collected data from unencrypted networks while intentionally disregarding encrypted networks. : "While running in memory, gslite permanently drops the bodies of all data traffic transmitted over encrypted wireless networks. The gslite program does write to a hard drive the bodies of wireless data packets from unencrypted networks."

Not only does PI believe that there is ample evidence of criminal intent, it also feels that a “systematic failure of management and of duty of care” and not the code's alleged author is to be blamed.  “This is equivalent to placing a hard tap and a digital recorder onto a phone wire without consent or authorisation,” PI said in a statement.

On the other hand, Google again tried to downplay the entire matter: "As we have said before, this was a mistake. The report today confirms that Google did indeed collect and store payload data from unencrypted wi-fi networks, but not from networks that were encrypted. We are continuing to work with the relevant authorities to respond to their questions and concerns.”

Image Credit: APCMAG

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