Posted June 4, 2010 10:18 am by with 1 comment

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It’s been a few weeks since Google inadvertently collected private data from wifi hotspots–while taking its Street View images in Europe and Hong Kong. After initially resisting the requests of the German government to turn over the data, the search giant is now acquiescing to their demands.

Eric Schmidt, chief executive, said the world’s largest internet company would hand over information initially to the German, French and Spanish data protection authorities…The company will also publish the results of an external audit into the practice.

And now for the part that might make you shart…

Mr Schmidt admitted he could not rule out the possibility that personal data such as bank account details were among the data collected.


OK, so Google is apologizing and being transparent about the whole situation. That’s good. What’s not good is that an engineer was given–explicitly or implicity–free reign to collect this data in the first place. Worrying, because Google has thousands of employees–each with their own “20% time” that they can invest in creative projects such as, I dunno, collecting your bank account details when you least expect it!

But Andy, I hear you cry, any hacker can steal your private info, if you use a public WiFi network! I hear you, but Google isn’t some sleezy hacker sitting outside of your local Startbucks–just hoping you’ll check your credit card statement while sipping your Chai Tea Latte. Nope, Google doesn’t have to sit outside any public WiFi hotspot in order to get its hands on your data. Heck, I suspect half the planets bank account and credit card logins are already sitting on Gmail’s servers somewhere.

But this is “don’t be evil” Google we’re talking about, we have nothing to fear, right? Google as a collective? No, not right now. Google as a company that allows employees the freedom to collect personal data without some kind of checks and balances? That’s the scary part. And a part that the search engine apparently has no intentions of policing:

The “20 per cent time” during which employees are allowed to pursue their own projects, for example, will remain in place and there is no plan for an overall audit of these schemes.

“It would be a terrible thing to put a chilling effect on creativity,” Mr Schmidt said

More terrible than collecting personal data from unaware netizens that assumed Google would be the last company they’d have to worry about?

  • Jon

    Of course creativity trumps everything else it’s how you innovate. And if your bank lets you send financial info and password in the clear you should take your money and go elsewhere.