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The cars are supposed to only take photos of the street and collect basic Wi-Fi information, such as the SSIDs and MAC addresses of WiFi routers.
The Wi-Fi data was to be used in Google's location-based services, and Google argued last month that it only collected the same data that was publicly available to anyone walking down the street with a Wi-Fi device. Google insisted that it did not collect any kind of IP or packet data in the course of its Wi-Fi collections.
That turned out to be mostly untrue. The company announced last week that it discovered a "mistake" in the code being used to collect info and that it was, in fact, collecting some information on who was visiting what websites on which Wi-Fi networks.
Originally posted by TLomon
"Google insisted that it did not collect any kind of IP or packet data in the course of its Wi-Fi collections."
So how did this happen? Quite simply, it was a mistake. In 2006 an engineer working on an experimental WiFi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast WiFi data. A year later, when our mobile team started a project to collect basic WiFi network data like SSID information and MAC addresses using Google’s Street View cars, they included that code in their software—although the project leaders did not want, and had no intention of using, payload data.
The engineering team at Google works hard to earn your trust—and we are acutely aware that we failed badly here. We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake.