14 May 2010

Google confirms it collected household wi-fi data

8:28 pm on 14 May 2010

Internet company Google has confirmed it collected information two years ago about household wireless networks in New Zealand.

When Google's cars travelled New Zealand streets to record photographs for its internet Street View service, they also collected data on all the wireless internet collections operating in the area.

A spokesperson for Google New Zealand has confirmed the data was logged, but is refusing to specify exactly how much information was collected, or why.

Google's collection of the data is creating concern that the search giant would now be able to publish detailed information about household wireless equipment on the internet.

The vice-president of the civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers Australia, Geordie Guy, says Google now has the position and name of each household's wireless networks, and the serial number of each device operating, and the company should explain why it is collecting the information.

Technology expert Colin Jackson says Google wants to use the information to more accurately pinpoint mobile phones and other devices connected to the internet.

Privacy watchdogs concerned

New Zealand's Privacy Commissioner has asked Google to explain why it collected information on home wireless devices.

Ms Schroff says she is surprised the company did not clearly tell the public before it collected other information with its Street View cars.

She has asked Google if its information identifies the type of device, the name of the network and whether the network was secured or unsecured.

Privacy watchdogs in Britain, Germany and Australia have also written to the company expressing their concerns about data collected in their countries.

Internet provider says info publicly available

An internet provider says Google has not taken any information that is not already publicly available.

James Watts, managing director of Manawatu-based internet company Inspire Net, says wireless network information is not private.

"The information that Google collected I could do walking down my street with my cellphone, so I don't think there's a massive issue with privacy.

"There's probably some issues with security for people that do have wide open access points, and that's something they should address for themselves. But I don't think it's a massive privacy concern."