Open Wi-Fi networks is stupid

The privacy furore over Google Street View misses the point.

OMG, as folk in more youthful circles text on their phones. I’m finding it hard to believe the ridiculous furore over the Google Wi-Fi-sniffing Street View cars!

On the off chance that your last name is Van Winkle and you’ve just woken up, let me explain the issue: Google sent cars all over the world to photograph the highways and byways so that all of us virtual tourists can see, for example, what the Drax Arms in Shitterton, Dorset, England looks like from street level.

The Googlemobiles sported not only cameras but also GPS receivers and (this is the biggie) Wi-Fi sniffing gear.

After Wi-Fi devices on board card wireless “hot spots” a logical thing to do would seem, has finally Shitterton apparently not a Starbucks (this is unique in all known universe), to know whether the Drax arms has Wi-Fi could be funny useful if they are by Shitterton over on the road to Winterbourne Abbas.

This would be all well and good, but the Google Street view cars accidentally went a lot of additional information to all WiFi spots they captured and have understanding of computer security is most people on an equal footing with their hands by Fermat’s last theorem some large number of these Wi Fi systems were “open”, that is, they were (and probably still) unencrypted. This meant that along with the site systems and their SSIDs (i.e., the “visible” name of the access point), the Googlemobiles snagged much private data such as emails, passwords, emails and so on.

This came to light after a Google test carried out on behalf of the data protection authority in Hamburg. Europeans are very hot photographed in public space on the subject of data protection and the idea of an outfit like Google and put them online is just the tip of “OMG!” “This is just not right and something needs to be done” iceberg. For a moment, I digress and wondering why is it that so many people are so bent over, that their homes and businesses from Google for street view mapped?

They are there continuously monitored could out a camera in their direction? No do they demand that people avert their eyes? No. again. They comb through YouTube and Flickr and demand that pictures will be deleted from their stuff? No, they don’t. And how is it that Google Street view differs significantly from the maps with satellite imagery that both Google and Microsoft offer than other beings rather than vertical horizontal views?

Based on people, it’s simple: If you don’t want others to see your House or your building or what ever, put up a fence. Close the curtains or select a location for the public visible at the top. Or would it just get? Once again the digital spirit out of the bottle is digital and you can change no amount of whining about it, even though it was a big deal in the first place… that it was not.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so Google did their audit and posted a mea culpa on their blog saying they hadn’t done anything with the data, that they were very sorry, that they’d erase what they’d found, and that they wouldn’t do it again.

Google then continued in serious service and her blog: “the engineering team at Google works hard to earn your trust and we are well aware that we badly here.” We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined, learn all the lessons we can from our mistake. “And she added:” to them, we come and wash your car. “” OK, they didn’t say, but they were close to offer take off.

According to the Washington Post, Alan Eustace, a senior Google vice president of engineering and research went even further and said, “We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologise again for the fact that we collected it in the first place… We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users.”

I’ve got to resort to textspeak again: OMG! Come on! Mortified? The Googlemobiles didn’t run anyone over. They didn’t steal anyone’s dog. They didn’t break into people’s houses and raid the liquor cabinet.

Now, a thick praise to Google “Manning up” documents, though I’m not sure, after this ridiculous submissive mea culpa almost a fall on their swords stance is useful combined. By so sorry they have validated the underlying stupidity, that any or all except to me seems to view: the data came from open systems! System that failed the people, to protect.

The data Google accidentally taken was visible in the public domain. It was unencrypted data! After an open, unencrypted WiFi service is like standing on the main street (or if you are in Shitterton, are available on West Street) and according to read your email. It is not to leave your doors and Windows unlocked, it’s like so that they open with a big neon sign next to your House reading “come in and see my stuff.”

So, now all, not only the European and Canadian politician, but also combinations as the consumer watchdog are interest group here on the bandwagon to jump. John Simpson, consumer watchdog Director, is quoted in the Washington Post saying: “maybe some Google executives are starting to get it:.” “Privacy matters the reality is that the company has to change the whole culture.”

This is the worst kind of coat-tailing on an issue. Statements like “the company’s entire culture needs to change” are so dramatic and overblown given the realities of the issue that Chicken Little would have to stand back and say, “Whoa! Hold on there, big fella!”

Even so, Simpson is right about one thing: Privacy matters. So people, if you want privacy, it’s time to get real. Don’t read your correspondence out loud in public, make sure you lock your doors, perhaps close your blinds, think about growing a hedge or building a fence, and don’t leave your Wi-Fi service open and unencrypted. Unless your privacy doesn’t matter to you, leaving any of these unsecured just makes you look like an idiot.

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