Privacy group: we’ll report Google to Scotland Yard
Privacy International is planning to report Google to the police after claiming the company was guilty of “criminal intent” in its collection of Wi-Fi data.
Google admitted last month that its Street View cars had “accidentally” harvested data from unencrypted Wi-Fi connections. The company claimed that a piece of code designed to collect the SSID and MAC address of hotspots was mistakenly reaping payload data as well.
Privacy International claims that an independent audit of the software, published by Google earlier this week, proves criminal intent.
This action by Google cannot be blamed on the alleged ‘single engineer’ who wrote the code. It goes to the heart of a systematic failure of management and of duty of care
“The independent audit of the Google system shows that the system used for the Wi-Fi collection intentionally separated out unencrypted content (payload data) of communications and systematically wrote this data to hard drives,” Privacy International claims. “This is equivalent to placing a hard tap and a digital recorder onto a phone wire without consent or authorisation.”
Google’s claim that the Wi-Fi harvesting code was accidentally left in the cars following a breakdown in communication between its programmers doesn’t stack up, according to the privacy watchdog. “Some jurisdictions provide leeway for ‘incidental’ or ‘accidental’ interception,” Privacy International states. “However where intent to intercept is established, a violation of criminal law is inevitably created.
“This action by Google cannot be blamed on the alleged ‘single engineer’ who wrote the code. It goes to the heart of a systematic failure of management and of duty of care.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office has said it will not be taking action against Google, leaving Privacy International chief Simon Davies to take the matter to the police. “I don’t see any alternative but for us to go to Scotland Yard,” Davies told the BBC.
A Google spokesperson told PC Pro: “As we have said before, this was a mistake. It was a failure of communication within and between teams. The report we published yesterday 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.”