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Mapping Routers

Google correlates routers with street address


Update: Searching Questions...

ICO re-opens investigation of Google Street View personal data grab

Link Here18th June 2012
Full story: Mapping Routers...Google correlates routers with street address

Google has been accused of misleading Britain's privacy watchdog over the scandal of personal data stolen from millions of home computers.

The Information Commissioner last night dramatically reopened its inquiry into how the internet giant's Street View cars harvested vast swathes of personal information from unsecured wi-fi networks.

During its first investigation, Google told investigators that the downloading of data was a simple mistake . It escaped with no punishment. Taking more than pictures: A Google street-mapping car in Bristol

But an investigation by US regulators revealed a company software engineer explicitly designed the programme to collect the data and warned his bosses repeatedly about privacy implications.

The data collected includes user names, passwords, telephone numbers, records of internet chats, medical information and even data from dating sites.

In a letter, the Information Commissioner's Office said yesterday that it seems likely such information was deliberately captured during the Google Street View operations conducted in the UK.

It demanded a prompt reply to seven detailed questions about what went on. The scandal has raised uncomfortable questions for the Government over its close links with the search engine firm.

Tory MP Robert Halfon welcomed the fresh investigation but said the ICO had been asleep on the watch . They should have investigated this a year ago, he added. They clearly need to find out what Google knew and when they knew it.

Update: Searching for Answers

7th August 2012. Based on article from

This afternoon the ICO has confirmed that Google has not deleted all the data it collected without people's consent during its Street View project. Google committed to delete the data in December 2010.

However, this gives an opportunity to explore just how sensitive the information was.

Given that Google failed to respect people's privacy in the first place and subsequently failed to adhere to its agreement with the Information Commissioner, serious questions need to be asked to understand why Google seemingly sees itself as above the law.

The Information Commissioner is hampered by a woeful lack of powers and is forced to trust organisations to tell the truth. Given Google's behaviour has called into question if that really is a proper way to protect our personal data, it must be right to now demand a proper regulator with the powers and punishments to fully protect British people's privacy.


21st April

They've Got Your Number...

Google using users to decode hard to make out house numbers on Street View

Internet users are being asked to decypher hard to make out house numbers snapped by Google's Street View cameras, as part of new anti-bot checks.

The pictures of house numbers, which are taken from doors and fences on its Street View mapping service, appear on Google's websites when internet users are asked security questions in order to access their accounts. In order to gain access to the page, web users are asked to identify a blurry house number by typing it into a box. The same image is presented to other Google users around the world at the same time. If enough people submit the same number, Google accepts they have accurately read the photo and are therefore not bots.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties at Big Brother Watch, condemned the use of pictures of real house numbers as security questions: There is a serious privacy issue with identifying the individual number of people's homes . Pickles also accused Google of using the pictures to further its own interests.

However it probably unlikely that this latest exercise has much impact on privacy. The large majority of house numbers are probably easily read by Google's computers and have probably been databased ages ago.

A Google spokesman explained that when someone types the number in correctly, Google will then sharpen up the online Street view image: We often extract data such as street names and traffic signs from Street View imagery to improve Google Maps with useful information like business addresses and locations.

Perhaps interesting to recall that Google Street cars were also controversially listening out to detect wireless routers. Using this latest information they could now correlate a street address against the routers discovered when they did the rounds.


3rd July

 Offsite: Beware of Unintended Consequences...

Technical consideration of the usefulness of encrypted wi-fi data as collected by Google Street View cars

See report [pdf] from


6th November

Update: Data Police with Header Information but no Payload...

Google slapped and told not to capture private communications again

Google committed a significant breach of data protection laws when its Street View cars mistakenly collected people's email addresses and passwords over unsecured WiFi networks, the Information Commissioner has ruled. However, the company escaped a fine and was asked only to promise not to do it again.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said Google had broken the law when devices installed on its specialised cars collected the personal data. He told the company to delete the information as soon as it is legally cleared to do so and ordered an audit of its data protection practices.

Google admitted in May that it had collected payload data – information transmitted over a network when users log on – and said it was acutely aware it had failed to earn the public's trust over the incident. In a post published on its official blog on 22 September, the company admitted that in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords .

Graham said: It is my view that the collection of this information was not fair or lawful and constitutes a significant breach of the first principle of the Data Protection Act: The most appropriate and proportionate regulatory action in these circumstances is to get written legal assurance from Google that this will not happen again. He added that it would be followed with an Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) audit.

Alex Deane, director of the civil liberties blog Big Brother Watch, said: The Information Commissioner's failure to take action is disgraceful. Ruling that Google has broken the law but taking no action against it shows the Commissioner to be a paper tiger. The Commissioner is an apologist for the worst offender in his sphere of responsibility, not a policeman of it.


22nd October

Update: Searching for Privacy...

Google censured over Wi-Fi snooping in Canada

Google's collection of personal data as part of its Street View project has been branded a serious violation of privacy laws.

The Canadian privacy commissioner found that the incident was the result of an engineer's careless error , which saw rogue code accidentally added to Street View software.

It has called on Google to tighten up its privacy rules by February or face further action.

Google apologised: We are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks .

As soon as we realised what had happened, we stopped collecting all wi-fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities.

It follows the conclusion of an investigation by the Canadian privacy commissioner, Jenny Stoddart: Our investigation shows that Google did capture personal information - and, in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as complete e-mails, e-mail addresses, usernames and passwords. This incident was a serious violation of Canadians' privacy rights .

The snooping code was incorporated in the Google Street View cars when the firm decided to collect information about the location of public wi-fi spots in order to feed this information into its location-based services database.

The Commissioner recommended that Google enhance its privacy training among all employees. It also called on Google to ensure that it has the necessary procedures to protect privacy before products are launched. It must also delete all the Canadian data it collected. If Google complies with these demands, it will face no further action, Ms Stoddart said.


13th August

Update: Street Wise...

South Korea police raid Google offices over Street View data

Police in South Korea have raided Google's headquarters in Seoul.

A police statement said they suspected Google has been collecting and storing data on unspecified internet users from wi-fi networks .

The firm recently admitted that its Street View cars had been collecting information over unencrypted wi-fi networks, claiming it to be a mistake . However there now seems to be a database that correlates routers to street addresses with data gathered by the Street View cars.

[We] have been investigating Google Korea on suspicion of unauthorised collection and storage of data on unspecified Internet users from wi-fi networks, the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) said in a statement.

Korean media reported that 19 KNPA agents raided the office, seizing hard drives and related documents. Authorities said they plan to summon Google officials for investigation once analysis on the confiscated items is complete.


7th August

Update: Mapping Routers...

So that's what Google were up to with their Wi-Fi monitoring

One visit to a specially configured website could direct attackers to a person's home, a security expert has shown.

The attack, thought up by hacker Samy Kamkar, exploits shortcomings in many routers to find out a key identification number.

It uses this number and widely available net tools to find out where a router is located.

Many people go online via a router and typically only the computer directly connected to the device can interrogate it for ID information. However, Kamkar found a way to code a webpage via a browser so the request for the ID information looks like it is coming from the PC on which that page is being viewed.

He then coupled the ID information, known as a MAC address, with a geo-location feature of the Firefox web browser. This interrogates a Google database created when its cars were carrying out surveys for its Street View service.

This database links Mac addresses of routers with GPS co-ordinates to help locate them. During the demonstration, Kamkar showed how straightforward it was to use the attack to identify someone's location to within a few metres.

This is geo-location gone terrible, said Kamkar during his presentation. Privacy is dead, people. I'm sorry.

Mikko Hypponen, senior researcher at security firm F Secure, attended the presentation and said it was very interesting research . The fact that databases like Google Streetview's Mac-to-Location database or the Skyhook database can be used in these attacks just underlines how much responsibility companies that collect such data have to safeguard it correctly .


16th May

Googling for Why?...

Google Street View cars have been hoovering up data on open wi-fi networks

Google has admitted that for the past three years it has wrongly collected information people have sent over unencrypted wi-fi networks.

The issue came to light after German authorities asked to audit the data the company's Street View cars gathered as they took photos viewed on Google maps.

Google said during a review it found it had been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open networks . It is now asking for a third party to review the software that caused the problem and examine precisely what data had been gathered.

Maintaining people's trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short, wrote Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research.

Update: Let Off

31st July 2010. Based on article from

The Information Commissioner's Office has said that Google did not grab significant amounts of personal data when photographing the UK with its StreetView cars, and that the information captured is unlikely to include meaningful personal details or information that could be linked to an identifiable person.

In its statement, the ICO said that Google was wrong to collect the information, but that ultimately, there was no evidence that the data collected could cause any individual detriment.


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