The real issue with Google Street View

Google is under attack for its Street View service. Some people have objected to having photographs of themselves or their property appearing online. I do not see the problem. The camera cars only capture what can be seen from the public highway. Also, Google will blur faces or remove images if requested.

It has also emerged that the Street View cars have captured data from unsecured wifi networks as they have driven past.  It appears that the contents of emails, passwords etc may have been collected.  Google have said that this was done in error and I believe them. I cannot see what business reason they could have for deliberately collecting such information.

I think the fuss about these two aspects of Street View is missing the real issue.

The real issue - WiFi location mapping

Google's cars are not just taking photographs. They are also collecting the IP address of every wifi router they pass and recording that address along with its GPS coordinates.

This is for Google's location service. The idea is that phones without GPS [the majority] will be able to find their location by detecting wifi signals. The phone will then check the IP addresses of the wifi routers that are sending out the signal and be told their current location.

If Google take the wifi address of my router and its GPS coordinate and combine it with a postcode directory and mapping data they already have they will know the router is located at 15 High Street, Peckham, London.

If they then combine the address with the UK Electoral Register they will know that John Smith lives at 15 High Street, Peckham, London.

If they then combine the name and address with other socioeconomic databases they will be able to extend my profile with the value of my house and an estimate of my income.

If they can combine my name and address with data on my spending patterns [from my supermarket loyalty card] they will know how I spend my money.

Whenever I go online to a Google site or one that has DoubleClick [a Google subsidiary] or Google Analytics they can collect my routers IP address and link my browsing with my profile.

Goodbye privacy. It will be no use deleting cookies or taking any other steps to protect my privacy. Google will know my True Name and my privacy is screwed.

If people want to worry about Google don't waste time on the Street View nonsense. Worry that Google has mapped every wifi router and thus outed everybody who goes online.

Why are they doing this? To make money. The better the profiles they can create, the more they can charge for really targeted advertising.

1 comment:

Todd HellsKitchen said...

Hm,... Interesting... Although... Most of the wifi signals around here are security enabled... And when I see a free one, I never trust it for unbridled safety and security......