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Google Street View logs WiFi networks, Mac addresses

Why are you doing this?, ask Germans

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Google's roving Street View spycam may blur your face, but it's got your number. The Street View service is under fire in Germany for scanning private WLAN networks, and recording users' unique Mac (Media Access Control) addresses, as the car trundles along.

Germany's Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar says he's "horrified" by the discovery.

"I am appalled… I call upon Google to delete previously unlawfully collected personal data on the wireless network immediately and stop the rides for Street View," according to German broadcaster ARD.

Spooks have long desired the ability to cross reference the Mac address of a user's connection with their real identity and virtual identity, such as their Gmail or Facebook account.

Other companies have logged broadcasting WLAN networks and published the information. By contrast Google has not published the WLAN map, or Street View in Germany; Google hopes to launch the service by the end of the year.

But Google's uniquely cavalier approach to privacy, and its potential ability to cross reference the information raises additional concerns. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide. And when there's nowhere left to hide...?

More from ARD here and Der Spiegel, here. The latter describes Google as a "data octopus". ®

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