Google delivers encrypted search to head off Wi-Fi fiasco

Google will launch an encrypted version of its search engine later this week, after admitting it had unwittingly collected data from Wi-Fi connections.

Google delivers encrypted search to head off Wi-Fi fiasco

The company confessed that its Street View cars had surreptitiously harvested payload data from open Wi-Fi connections. The cars were meant to merely record the hotspot’s SSID and MAC address to help improve location-based services, but the company claims that the piece of legacy code used to collect the information was mistakenly reaping payload data as well.

Google insists that the data wasn’t used by the company and is in contact with the relevant authorities in each country to ensure that the data is disposed of properly.

We did not collect information traveling over secure, password-protected Wi-Fi networks

The company claims only small pieces of payload data were collected from each connection. “We will typically have collected only fragments of payload data because: our cars are on the move; someone would need to be using the network as a car passed by; and our in-car WiFi equipment automatically changes channels roughly five times a second,” Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research wrote on the Google blog. “In addition, we did not collect information traveling over secure, password-protected Wi-Fi networks.”

In a bid to head off further criticism of its privacy record, Google has announced that it will this week launch an encrypted version of its search engine, ensuring that search results couldn’t be tapped over an open Wi-Fi connection, for example. Earlier this year, the company turned on encryption by default for users of its Gmail service.

In a further move to restore confidence, the company has also announced that its Street View cars will no longer collect any data on Wi-Fi hotspots as the roam around the country.

Only a month ago, the company was launching a staunch defence of the collection of such data, claiming that it was common practice. “Today, geolocation services are an increasingly popular part of the web,” Google said in a statement, when it was first revealed that Street View cars were collecting data on Wi-Fi hotspots. “

“Wi-Fi location information is by its very nature publicly broadcast and collecting it for geolocation purposes is not new or unique to Google. Such information has been collected by companies for years, and many other internet companies are using exactly the same information collected by different providers.”

The Street View cars have been grounded until the modifications can be made.

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