back to article Google Street View whacked by German prosecutors, Czech data watchdog

Google came under increased fire in Europe yesterday, after German prosecutors and the Czech data protection agency launched separate investigations into the company’s interception of private Wi-Fi data. Last week Google contradicted previous assurances it had made about its world-roving Street View cars by admitting the ad …


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  1. Oz


    Eric Schmidt is supposed to have also said "show me one person who has been harmed by this".

    Oh, that's OK then. Making an (mildly flippant) analogy, if I run around the street with a shotgun shooting at people, but missing them all, is that OK as well?

    The interception of private data is illegal across a number of countries, so also no-one has been harmed, according to Mr Schimdt, there is no doubt that the company's action were illegal.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Google scummers

    No respect for privicy or law. Had a street view spy wagon trespassing on our farm roads (which are signposted as "Private - no entry"). Asked then to remove the photos - haven't even bothered to reply. Scum - hope they get roasted by the EU.

    1. CD001


      No "Get orf my land" and unleashing with both barrels? You're obviously not in Norfolk then ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Report them for trespassing

      Given that the silhouette of the vehicles is quite unique you should have no problem getting that started. In addition, they actually published the evidence, so make backup copies.

      Where possible, try for a criminal type of complaint. First off won't it cost you anything, secondly they won't be able to settle.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should have used a password then.

    “unauthorised interception of data” sounds a bit like piracy to me...So who's at fault now that it's a large organisation?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Should have used a password then

      Google is holding up it's hands to say yes we've accidentally interecepted some traffic we really didn't want and will delete it but, just like someone going throught the red channel at customs they are keeping quiet on the really nefarious side of what they did want to do. That is harvest all the mac addresses, which think aren't encryoted, in order to provide location based adverts to individual users.

  4. truCido

    hang on a minute...

    hang on a minute...Surely the onus is on the person with the unsecured network? If you have an open wifi network you might as well be shouting down the street "I'm just putting my private letters and bank statements in the bin unshredded, come take a look". I'm sorry but I don't think they've done anything wrong, if anything they've helped highlight how many people are using unsecure networks and should steer them in the right direction.

    If you leave your wifi network unsecured its your own fault...they haven't done anything that anyone else couldn't do as they walk around the streets with a laptop and a linux build

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I hate this arguement....

      Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTML

      So by your logic, if you leave a window open in your house,I'm ok to come in, shit on sofa, piss in the fridge and shag your missues (with her consent).

      Your fault, you left the window open.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I hate it...

        ... when they call it an 'argument'.

        It's not an argument, it's just some fool making noise.

    2. Sodabread
      Thumb Down


      So, with that logic, it's cool for me to read all your mail that's sitting in your mailbox because you didn't go out of the house and take it directly from the mail person?

    3. CD001

      erm? what?


      they haven't done anything that anyone else couldn't do as they walk around the streets with a laptop and a linux build


      Which would ALSO be illegal *sighs*

      Yes, I'd be an idiot to leave my car unlocked in a city centre car park overnight, yes, the insurance company wouldn't pay out when the stereo was nicked - but the person who nicked the stereo (irrespective of the fact that the car wasn't locked) would STILL have been breaking the law - they would STILL have been doing something wrong.

    4. Richard IV

      Fair enough

      Let us know your address and we'll all come round at random intervals to see if you've left anything unlocked. You won't mind if we take anything because, after all, it will be your fault for leaving it unlocked in the first place. We'll all be blameless as we'll just be helping steer you in the right direction.

      Just because I could punch anyone in the face as they walk past, doesn't make it right for me to do so. Even if they should have had their guard up just in case.

    5. Anonymous Coward


      Way to miss the point.

      It's illegal to steal data off a wireless network - unsecured or not.

      Just like it's illegal to burgle a house - locked or not.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also in Sweden

    Even if "nobody have been harmed" it is still a violation of (at least) people's integrity. Even IF people are morons if they don't secure their network (which they should), it is still not a good thing for a company to regularly collect that kind of information AND the data from it...

    This matter came up in Sweden today where the Swedish Data Inspection Board was contacted by Google and told the Board that they will (voluntarily) delete the collected data. Link: (in Swedish).

    For El reg: We need icons for Eric Schmidt just like Bill and Steve (with horns and halo)!

    1. Gordon is not a Moron

      Only need one of those icons

      I mean Eric Schmidt with a halo??? When would that ever be needed?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Deletion will not undo the crime

      It's a cute way to avoid the problem, promising to delete the evidence, but it falls rather short of the original point: Google did not have business collecting that data in the first place.

      Deleting the evidence is (a) only Google telling you it did - no evidence they actually do it and (b) hiding just how much they were collecting. Headers? Complete traffic trails? Credit card details? Full emails and attachments? I think the Germans are right demanding copies - I think they should raid Google offices worldwide to secure the information before it does an electronic equivalent of Arthur Andersen during the Enron affair.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @truCido're an idiot!

    1. andy gibson

      @ AC

      No he's not.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @andy glibson

        Just because he's not the biggest idiot on this thread doesn't mean he isn't an idiot.

        He was before you posted.

        He still is now.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    you hang on your minute, I'll hang on mine.

    To expand on your analogy, if someone puts un-shredded bank statements in the bin, the onus is on you to not break the law and go routing around said bin looking for bank statements.

    Similarly, even though it is possible for Google (and the nerd with the laptop) to see what's passing along unsecured networks, the onus is still on Google/nerd to not do so, as that would be breaking the law, as I think Viv Reding was trying to point out.

    Just because you can do something is never an excuse for doing it!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You need to hang on a little longer with the others

      In the example of Google it is nothing like going through someones bin and taking their bank statements. It's the equivilant of sitting next to someone on the phone while they place an order with someone. You will hear all of their account details and, if you have a really good memory, will remember them no problem. You are not breaking the law until you actually try and use the information you've gained.

      With your non shreaded details example it is NOT illigal for me to go routing through your bins, especially if they are on public property (at the most it's a public order offence). It IS illigal for me to use the information I've found though. As google havn't actually used this information they are not doing anything wrong.

      Legality and morality are two very different things.

      1. truCido

        RE: You need to hang on a little longer with the others

        Thank you!! what I was alluding to, but I'm an "idiot" so didn't say it

  8. Britt Johnston
    Black Helicopters

    collecting evidence

    I'm surprised that police haven't impounded black googlemobiles as technical evidence.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who the hell does Eric Schmidt think he is...

    ... to tell us what 'society' has or has not figured out?

    Maybe he ought to come out of the Googlecreche from time to time.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @andy gibson

    Yes, he is.

  11. Ed L


    "if the Google cars travelled over Wi-Fi networks while one of its vehicles was in range. "

    Yes, I know it is called the Information Superhighway but I must have missed the bit when Google invented cars that drive on IP networks instead of roads.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Not Intentional

    People are blowing this way out of proportion without realising what has actually happened.

    Google did not intentionally "steal" peoples information from their unsecured networks. Google have been going around streets taking pictures. At the same time, they "sniff the air" for WiFi hotspots. The only way to do this, is to listen for packets of data.

    Packets of data contain a lot of things. What Google wanted was the MAC address, or the identity, of that router. This information is contained in the packet of data. Unfortunately, as well as containing the router information, it also contained whatever data was being sent at that time, which could happen to be emails, chat conversation pieces, whatever.

    All the packets are then broken down to a router address, which is also stored in a database coupled with a GPS position. The original packet is also kept, yes, but Google's statement claimed that this was a programming error, and the original packet should have been deleted.

    It was a mistake is the main point!

    To put it in analogy form, its like you are walking down the street, and you overhear people talking about something private to them. You heard it, you can't un-hear it. Thats that!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not intentional

      I was going to use the thumbs up icon because yous eem to have grasped that what google were after were the MAC address however you equally seem gullible enough to accept that they accidentally failed to delete the other data.

      First off, there was no need to even save the other data in the first place if you need to save a mac address a 12 character field will do. That's not difficult to understand, if you have room for storing more then it was intentional.

      Secondly, can you believe that a company who allegedly takes the top programmers from the cream of the cream would make such a simple programming error?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They don't...

        ... take the top programmers from the cream of the cream.

        How do I know?

        I got cold-called by a Google recruiter.

        They're taking anyone they can get.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I got cold-called by a Google recruiter.

          Let's see, google recruiter != google, however it does equate to virtually every contract ageny trying desperately to get a nice percentage on a placement. Given a whiff of such an earner there are many agents that will cold call their neighbours pet chihuahua.

          I've been asked to give a references for a couple of programmers google were interested in and they were both, to use a phrase I don't particularly care for, best in class. One of them went on to work there.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stepping back a bit...

    didn't google originally tell us that the Black cars were only going around taking pictures (that anyone could take).

    they also took the line that this was no big thing and if we were bothered we only had to ask to have the picture removed from streetview.

    Had they said at the time, that they were also copying down the name of every wireless network they met along the way, would there have been more of a fuss?

    If I can request that the picture of my house be removed (just because I want to not because I need a reason), can I also request that my wireless network info also be removed (to p** googleworld off)

  14. The_Police!

    Wait! Wait!

    Google and Privacy? AHAHAHAHAHahaahahaa

  15. TkH11


    Google seem to be blaming this on a programmer, who did something they shouldn't have.

    Does Google really intend to claim it was an accident this code module was embedded into their application and not know about it?

    There is more to this than they have admitted so far.

    Those of us that have been software developers for years know that you can't accidentally write code! That you can't accidentally leave this kind of functionality embedded in an application.

    Everything that happened was deliberate. You can be sure of that.

    In my view there should be a prosecution. Any fine, Google can afford to pay. But it will bring to the forefront the issue of data protection and increase awareness of it and serve as a warning to any other company that tries to flout the rules, it will prompt them to think seriously about the issue before engaging in their particular projects.

    1. ThisIsMyName


      You certainly can accidentally leave a module in a program. If a lot of you have been programming for years, I'm sure you have heard of memory leaks, where temporary data is not released back to the system. Think about this for a second, and then think about all the programs in the past that have been a full release to the public, and have accidentally left memory leaks in it. The first Mozilla Firefox for example. Windows has had its issues with memory leaks in the past. And of course, games. I can imagine this being an accident as storing the packets to parse into needed information, but forgetting to release that memory.

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