updated 04:30 pm EDT, Fri October 22, 2010
Google Street View incident pushes tighter privacy
Google today warned that its accidental collection of Wi-Fi data with Street View cars collected more than it thought and was triggering a privacy overhaul. Senior Engineering and Research VP Alan Eustace admitted that investigations in Europe and elsewhere contained whole e-mail messages, web addresses and in some cases passwords. Google will delete the information as soon as it's legally cleared, the executive said.
To address the problem, the search originator said it would institute deeper training for engineers on privacy and make a security awareness program mandatory for new hires from December onward. Every engineering lead will have to likewise keep a privacy design guideline for their work to show how it would handle privacy and give a way for Google to audit its privacy controls.
Privacy engineering lead Alma Whitten was also being promoted to direct privacy across both engineers and product management.
The collection was reportedly the result of leftover experimental code being included in and running with Street View cars collecting photos. The vehicles had Wi-Fi in a bid to map available access points but hadn't been intended to snoop actual data. While Google didn't have any reason to believe the data was vital at first, it led to a temporary freeze on Street View driving and even raids of Google offices in South Korea over fears that it might abuse the information.
Street View has since resumed, but none of the vehicles now have wireless.