back to article Google tries to patent tech that snoops Wi-Fi networks

Google is attempting to patent the very same wardriving technology the search giant says it used by mistake to snoop on Wi-Fi users in more than 30 countries, attorneys said Wednesday. A patent application published in January describes a method devised by Google for gathering and analyzing data sent via wireless access points …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Even better....

    Google re-traces their route, connecting to each open WiFi network in turn, downloading a very offensive (to the thin-skinned fascists), and then sends an email to the local police that Mrs. Wilson, 92, of 118 Elm court, Santa Clause, OH, USA just downloaded 'how to rape a child and get off scott free version 9.2.pdf'

    Now that would be justice. Even better would be driving by that judges residence in Italy (re: Youtube trial)

    Most of my neighbors wised up about a year ago because I could sit on my deck, connect to neighbor #1's WiFi, download DebbieDoesDallas.avi.part1, then immediately connect to neighbor #2 and download part2, and so on. Download limits, HA! Now, the only open network is an Appletalk printer. And if I were actually evil, I'd change my computername, Wireless MAC and print the contents of or perhaps the US Civil Code (which might be longer)

  2. James Woods


    perhaps they filed this by mistake.

    I say it's still possible for the hammer to smash google. Once we have a change of administration here, if we have a president that doesn't like 1984 he/she may just take a look at google.

    theres alot of talk about google being in bed with various governments (and they are) but we all know how soon big brother can also turn on you.

    you would have to have been born yesterday not to connect the dots that google has been able to form it's empire because of the data it collects either legally, or illegally.

    once in awhile, they get caught.

  3. Adam T


    I'd still like to know *why* they wrote the software in the first place. what information could you possibly glean from drive-by snooping on household wifi networks?

    And how on earth did they even remotely imagine it wouldn't be illegal? (aside from the fact they obviously thought they wouldn't get caught, esp. after 3 years...)

    1. SMobius


      This isn't related to the traffic capture "incident" this is a patent on the usual streetview van process of locating AP's and storing their MAC and ssid to allow other used to identify where they are via wi-fi only.

      The problem google had was about accidentally retaining fragments of the traffic on unencrypted networks. Not the simple (and reasonable IMHO) act of logging the location and identity of AP's something that has always been broadcast in-the-clear.

      Note that the patent is all about packet timings not packet content, retaining a packet would not help the location system detailed in the patent at all.

  4. Ben Tasker

    Could be Interesting to watch

    Given that the networks of the Complainants must have been Open for data to be collected, I'd hope that they wouldn't win this.

    I'm not saying what Google did was right (whether a mistake or not), but if you haven't secured your WiFi, you've a lot more people to worry about than Google.

    It'd be interesting to know what proportion of the Complainants still have their network unsecured? Then further to that, what proportion of those have their network used (without their knowledge) by an unauthorised third party other than Google?

    Radio Waves are a bit like voices, sometimes it almost seems like it would be better if some weren't allowed them!!

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Half agree/Half dont...

      Whilst i dont agree with the absurd suing culture in the US, and i really dont think any of these people have a truly valid complaint, the FTC and all the other government bodies who SHOULD be the ones getting angry, conducting investigations and punsihing Google for its illegal activities, are not doing a damn thing (except saying "Google, you've been bad, dont do it again.... please, pretty please!").

      So good luck to them if it finally means that Google gets punished for blatantly ignoring the law and our rights to privacy!

  5. max allan

    Prior art?

    Am I missing something or are they trying to patent wardriving, which has been around since people started having wifi?

    If so, I'll patent the wheel, the inclined plane and the lever fairly quickly

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Patent wardriving?

    This art is so prior, they even coined a word for it.

  7. vic 4

    Possile to Patent?

    Prior art aside, I thought you could only patent something new, they've already done this and it's now public knowledge, surely you can't retrospectively patent something?

    1. Andy ORourke

      Ah yes, but........

      if you can retrospectivley patent something I might patent the patent system (assuming it isn't already patented!) just to see if it implodes the whole system!

  8. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Readdthe patent and see what they're patenting.

    I haven't.

    Apparently the declared intended and/or implemented application, which may or may not be legitimate, we'll come to that, is to make a useful device that can go, "I am within range of these home or business computer networks at these signal strengths. Therefore I am halfway along Main Street, Hope, Arkansas." Or wherever.

    It's just geolocation.

    Now: imagine a device that can mysteriously sense the location and species of all trees within a 100 metre radius, with sufficient accuracy that the reading can be matched against a map of all the trees in the world to calculate where in the map you are.

    Some of these trees are privately owned and on private property land. Is it a breach of privacy to plot the locations of all privately owned trees? And to use the map to find out where in the world you yourself are?

    It isn't exactly the same thing, of course!

  9. JamieC64
    Black Helicopters

    The Google cookie

    Is it possible the cars were trying to detect Google cookie data being transmitted, thus allowing them to match precise geographical locations to Google cookie IDs?

    (and IP addresses as well. And MAC addresses, though I'm not sure what use that would be)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maverick Software Engineer

    In order to stop this type of war driving technology from being abused and unauthorized, the smart man would patent it and defend and control it's use under theses patents. As it has come to light, a maverick engineer created this program without the consent of Google. Patenting it is the only way to control it.

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