[LINK] Google's WiFi bungle

Scott Howard scott at doc.net.au
Tue May 18 12:18:44 AEST 2010

On Mon, May 17, 2010 at 6:59 PM, Bernard Robertson-Dunn
<brd at iimetro.com.au>wrote:

> When Google say that their in-car WiFi changes channel five times a
> second they are implying that they do listen very long on a particular
> channel and therefore don't gather much information from each user.

I'm presuming you've missed a "NOT" in there.  (... implying that they do
NOT listen ...).

This makes perfect sense, as it's exactly how you scan for WiFi signals.
Whenever you ask your computer what wifi networks are available, it finds
that out by flicking between the dozen or so channels very quickly,
listening to see which base stations are broadcasting on each of those
channels.  (In practice, it generally does this without you even asking, so
that the data is available as soon as you ask).  Most base stations
broadcast "beacon" packets every 1/100th of a second, so you don't need to
stay on each channel very long - although obviously the longer you listen
the more likely you are to detect fainter signals.

Google deliberately collecting data like this makes absolutely no sense -
there's no benefit is capturing a few stray packets - especially given that
you're only going to get them from open WiFi (which anyone else could be
spying on at any time), and even then only for non-SSL/etc traffic.  I can't
believe that this is anything other than an honest mistake on their behalf.


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