Feeds

UK data watchdog to quiz Google on Streetview Wi-Fi database

What are you up to?

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Sharp criticism of Google in Germany has today prompted the UK's privacy watchdog to quiz the firm over data its Street View cars have collected about Wi-Fi networks.

Officials from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will seek details and assurances about the practice.

A spokeswoman told The Register the ICO had been unaware the Street View fleet has been recording the MAC addresses and locations of Wi-Fi networks as they photograph national road netwoks - until its German counterpart launched an attack last week.

Peter Schaar, Germany's Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, was quoted as saying he was "horrified" by the data gathering exercise and demanding the Wi-Fi database be deleted.

The ICO spokeswoman said British regulators are interested in how the data is being processed and used by Google. If the firm were collecting data on the security settings of Wi-Fi routers, she said, it would be asked to give assurances about what it might do with that information.

"If it's just to tell you there's a cafe nearby - fine," she added.

In Germany, concerns have centred on claims that a national database of Wi-Fi MAC addresses or network names could prove a boon to authorities tracking online activity. Similarly, easy look-up of encryption standards on Wi-Fi routers might be useful to investigators, or criminals.

In an apparent response that did not directly reference the German criticism, on Friday Google emphasised the ability of smartphones to use Wi-Fi signals to calculate a more accurate location than by cell tower triangulation alone.

"This can be done without any intrusion into the privacy of a Wi-Fi network," it said.

"We only use information that is publicly broadcast. It doesn't involve accessing the network to send or receive data."

The firm also pointed out that other Wi-Fi location systems have been developed in recent years by Skyhook and Intel. Privacy advocates argue that those firms do not have the vast mines of personal data for ready cross-referencing that Google does.

The ICO said it will share the outcome of its discussions with Google. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Virgin Media so, so SORRY for turning spam fire-hose on its punters
Hundreds of emails flood inboxes thanks to gaffe
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
AT&T threatens to pull out of FCC wireless auctions over purchase limits
Company wants ability to buy more spectrum space in auction
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
Facebook splats in-app chat, whacks brats into crack yakety-yak app
Jibber-jabbering addicts turfed out just as Zuck warned
Google looks to LTE and Wi-Fi to help it lube YouTube tubes
Bandwidth hogger needs tube embiggenment if it's to succeed
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.