[ad] The service leader for Cloud is now in Australia. Secure, reliable cloud and managed hosting all backed by 24x7x365 Fanatical Support. Create your free account now.
Buy an Seagate Business Storage NAS for your chance to win a holiday
[ad] Purchase a selected Seagate Business Storage NAS to receive a $20 cash-back AND go into the draw to win a $1,000 Flight Centre voucher so you can holiday in the destination of your choice. T&Cs apply.
Great articles on other sites
- IBM accuses Qld govt of trying to ‘rewrite history’
- Newlease undergoes reverse takeover to score ASX listing
- Australia Post loses battle | The Australian
- Start-ups leap at Telstra's accelerator
- Labor won't hand over NBN advice to Turnbull
- Adelaide Uni on hiring blitz for tech transformation
- Human Services to cut 56 IT jobs
- Turnbull to release NBN review next week
- Canberra blitzes states with NBN take-up rates
- War on whistleblowers from Abbott, Turnbull as ICJ case arrives
How mobile and social media affect your Customer Experience strategy
[ad] How will the adoption of mobile devices and social media affect your Customer Experience strategy? Are you reaching your organisation's customers through these touch points? Click here to download a whitepaper by Fifth Quadrant examining consumer and business attitudes to these new contact channels.
50 things top IT pros need to know
[ad] This 18 page TechRepublic whitepaper explores 10 things you should know to become an epic IT manager, 40 other essential tips to advance your IT career and practical guidance for starting an IT consulting business. Click here to access the whitepaper.
Featured, Opinion - Written by Renai LeMay on Monday, May 17, 2010 14:16 - 25 Comments
Google shouldn’t stop collecting Wi-Fi data
opinion Google’s decision to stop its Street View cars collecting harmless data on the location of Wi-Fi hotspots (including in Australia) is an over-reaction to the baseless concerns of a few privacy experts and should be reversed.
For those of you not up to date on this little storm in a teacup, here’s what has happened so far.
In a post on 23 April, the search giant discussed on its Lat Long blog (which is used by the developers of its geographic Earth and Maps services to post updates) the fact that its Street View cars were simultaneously collecting data on Wi-Fi hotspots as they drove around populated countries automatically taking photos.
It’s not the first time Google has discussed the Wi-Fi data collection — as the blog entry notes, it had publicly revealed the practice as early as August 2008 — two years ago. But certainly there were quite a few people that weren’t paying attention back then and were surprised by Google’s admission.
Part of the reason for Google’s blog post was the fact that German authorities had asked for more information about its data collection habits.
The blog post also attracted the interest of the Australian Privacy Foundation and Electronic Frontiers Australia, which sent a concerned letter (PDF) to the search giant demanding more information. And with good cause.
It turned out that Google had in fact been collecting data it shouldn’t have — its cars have not just been cataloguing the locations of Wi-Fi networks as they drive around global neighbourhoods — but also collecting snippets of unencrypted data as they had been doing so.
In an apologetic blog post, Google’s senior vice president of Engineering and Research, Alan Eustance, said the search giant would delete the data and stop collecting Wi-Fi data, period (including, we have verified, in Australia). “The engineering team at Google works hard to earn your trust—and we are acutely aware that we failed badly here,” he wrote.
Now, I applaud Google’s decision to delete any unencrypted data it may have collected with its Street View cars. Not because collecting that data was in some way evil — if you leave your wireless network unsecured, you deserve everything you get — but simply because it’s a bad look for a corporation to be snooping packets like this.
But, in my opinion, simply stopping collecting Wi-Fi network data as a whole is an over-reaction on Google’s part.
Privacy experts and “Data Protection Commissioners” from Europe need to realise that like the photos its Street View cars have been taking, the Wi-Fi network data that Google has been collecting is publicly available information.
There is no difference between collecting Wi-Fi network address data such as SSID and MAC addresses and taking a photo of someone’s house. One constitutes collection of data about an addresses’ physical appearance — and one about its electronic infrastructure. Both sources of information are publicly available.
Furthermore, there is a valid and useful purpose in Google collecting that data — and it is in a unique position to be able to do so.
As Google’s own blog posts have noted, it is very useful for smartphones such as the iPhone, or a Google Android handset, to store a list of Wi-Fi hotspots and use this data to quickly deliver geographical information to the user about their surrounds.
“By treating Wi-Fi access points or cell towers as ‘beacons’, smartphones are able to fix their general location quickly in a power-efficient way, even while they may be working on a more precise GPS-based location,” Google’s original blog on the subject states, noting that this is precisely how the first-generation iPhone worked, before Apple added satellite GPS functionality to the device.
Using Wi-Fi networks in this way does not violate users’ privacy — Google’s own blog notes that this triangulation of geographical information can be done without any intrusion into the Wi-Fi networks themselves — just noting which ones are accessible.
And users also have ways of protecting themselves against even inadvertent access to their Wi-Fi networks — through using WPA or even the lesser WEP encryption technology, setting MAC address limitations as to who can connect to the network and even hiding the SSID broadcast.
Hell, if you’re that worried about the security of your data, you wouldn’t be running a Wi-Fi network in the first place. Those who spend their lives obsessed with security would be more likely to depend on wired connections, which are ten times harder to snoop, because you need access to the physical premises instead of … the air around someone’s house.
In its corporate history, Google has stepped over the line into being “evil” several times, breaking its organisational motto in the process. And it will again — that’s the nature of corporations. They are too big and too complex to completely control.
But this isn’t one of those cases. Collecting Wi-Fi network data is a prime example of the reason Google exists — to collect and organise the world’s information and make it useful to humans.
So stop over-reacting to this privacy mini-storm, Google, and stand up for your rights to do what you can with information that is freely and publicly available and which can, after all, be controlled by its owners.
Latest Delimiter 2.0 articles (subscriber content)
|Politicians from Australia’s major parties need to stop issuing ludicrous blanket pardons for the intelligence community’s ongoing misdemeanours and start applying a basic modicum of transparency and accountability to this important national security function.|
|The independent pro-fibre National Broadband Network movement is doing a far better job of promoting Labor’s Fibre to the Premises-based NBN policy than Labor itself. When is Labor going to wake from its slumber and start supporting this scrappy but energetic grassroots network of activists?|
|Ziggy Switkowski's first substantial public appearance since being appointed NBN Co chief executive has starkly demonstrated just how different he is from his predecessor, Mike Quigley, and just how strictly he will adhere to the guidelines which his patron, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has set for him.|
|Australian technology companies have been virtually absent from the the nation’s public stockmarket over the past decade as the stigma of the dot com bust took its toll on investor confidence. But a clutch of new listings planned for the closing months of 2013 shows renewed interest in the sector and that local entrepreneurs are smelling money in the air once again.|
|NBN Co’s Strategic Review process gives the company an unmissable opportunity to re-evaluate the early decision to deploy its FTTP network primarily through Telstra’s underground ducts. The company and its new Coalition masters must now seriously consider deploying more fibre aerially on power poles in an effort to speed up its rollout substantially.|
|That moment which many Australian technologists fervently hoped for but never expected to see has come to pass: Simon Hackett has been appointed to the board of the National Broadband Network Company. But what questions should the Internode founder be asking NBN Co’s executive management team? Here’s five ideas to start with.|
|The rapid replacement of respected NBN Co chief operating officer Ralph Steffens with a Telstra executive who appears less experienced with fibre rollouts but better politically connected represents a key signal that NBN Co’s senior executive hiring process has now become completely politicised and is no longer independent from the Federal Government.|
Enterprise IT, Featured, News - Dec 9, 2013 11:35 - 0 Comments
More In Enterprise IT
- Harbour City Ferries goes Microsoft across the board
- Payroll disaster: Queensland sues IBM
- End of an era: Oracle Australia’s ‘safe hands’ leaves
- Qld launches whole of government IaaS panel
- Defence finally allows staff iPhones, iPads
News, Telecommunications - Dec 9, 2013 17:23 - 21 Comments
More In Telecommunications
- NBN Co still has 1Gbps on way
- Delimiter appeals Turnbull Blue Book censorship
- Final closure: TPG buys AAPT for $450m
- NBN FTTN analysis “devastating” for Coalition
- NBN Co internal FTTN analysis: Turnbull refuses to retract inaccurate claim
Industry, News, Startups - Dec 9, 2013 15:40 - 2 Comments
More In Industry
- The Australian IT sector needs a stronger voice
- Xbox One goes off with a bang … but will the PS4 launch eclipse it?
- It’s not just Freelancer: Aussie tech IPOs are back in general
- Freelancer’s IPO: A billion reasons to care
- Australian retailers online: Late to the party and much to do
Blog, Digital Rights, Gadgets - Dec 9, 2013 11:15 - 15 Comments
More In Digital Rights
- Censored: Appeal for AG’s Blue Book fails
- Senate to force TPP publication
- Global privacy group files formal ASD complaint
- Labor open to surveillance discussion
- Snowden an “American traitor”, says Australia’s Attorney-General