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Computer Science

Google Street View and the Issue of Privacy

According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, since 2012, a number of nations including the U.S. have begun to investigate what is known as Google Street View, a feature included in Google Maps that allows the user to “view and navigate within 360 degrees street level imagery of various cities” in the U.S. and foreign countries. Most of these investigations are related to the allegation that Google via the Street View feature was collecting along with digital images Wi-Fi (wireless) data and information which some investigators maintain connotes an invasion of personal privacy (Investigations of Google Street View, 2012).

Following investigations in the U.S., Switzerland, Canada, Great Britain, Greece, Japan, and Germany, Google finally admitted that it had collected Wi-Fi data and information via its land-based vehicles, especially MAC addresses, “the unique device ID for Wi-Fi hotposts,” and computer network SSIDs “tied to location information for private wireless networks.” Also, Google admitted that it had “intercepted and stored Wi-Fi transmission data,” such as email passwords and email content (Investigations of Google Street View, 2012). Therefore, Google, at least in the U.S., “may be both civilly and criminally liable for the unauthorized capture of data from private Wi-Fi networks,” along with violating the U.S. Federal Wiretap Act and for “deceiving consumers and violating individual privacy” (Investigations of Google Street View, 2012).

In response to these acts related to invading personal privacy via Google Street View and in order to avoid possible legal ramifications, Google agreed to cease the collecting of Wi-Fi data and information in the U.S. and foreign countries. Google’s guilt in this situation is rather clear-cut which led the company to admit in 2012 that it had “in some instances, gathered and stored entire emails and URLs, as well as passwords” in its pursuit to offer street level views to Google users over the World Wide Web.

References

Investigations of Google street view. (2012). Retrieved from http://epic.org/privacy/streetview

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