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Google’s WiFi debacle ‘shows lack of concern for consumers’ privacy’


An admission that Google’s StreetView cars were gathering private information from WiFi networks shows the company’s lack of concern for privacy and the need for government inspection of the data the company is collecting and storing, “Consumer Watchdog” ( says.

The scandal only came to light because the German government raised concerns prompting Google to audit its practices, the nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization claims. Consumer Watchdog said appropriate government agencies must now act to ensure that the ill-gotten information is completely deleted from the Internet giant’s massive global network of servers.

“Once again Google has demonstrated a lack of concern for privacy,” says John Simpson, consumer advocate with the nonprofit group. “Its computer engineers run amok, push the envelope and gather whatever data they can until their fingers are caught in the cookie jar. Then a Google executive apologizes, mouthing bafflegab about how privacy matters to the company. The takeaway from this incident is the clear need for government oversight and regulation of the data all online companies gather and store.”

He says the Justice Department or the Federal Communications Commission should examine the Google case in the U.S. Consumer Watchdog said that Google’s announced plan to have an unnamed third party study what went wrong and to check that the improperly gathered private data has been eliminated is inadequate.

“That’s like getting to pick the referees in a championship football game,” says Simpson.

In its corporate blog post announcing the privacy invasion, Google said it would begin offering SSL encryption on its search engine next week.  Earlier this year it began offering SSL encryption on its Gmail service as the default mode.  Consumer Watchdog has been urging the company for two years to offer this protection and Simpson raised the issue with CEO Eric Schmidt in a question at the annual shareholders’ meeting on Thursday.

“We’re delighted they are finally doing this,” Simpson says. “Now Google needs to factor privacy in from the beginning of all projects, rather than simply gathering as much data as it can, simply because it can. I hope they will learn a valuable lesson from this debacle.”

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