[LINK] Google's WiFi bungle

Craig Sanders cas at taz.net.au
Tue May 18 16:49:57 AEST 2010

On Tue, May 18, 2010 at 03:22:16PM +1000, Stephen Wilson wrote:
> It's not a bullshit story.

yes, it is.

> Craig Sanders wrote:
> > google collected publicly available data that people were broadcasting
> > for anyone to see. so what? big deal.
> The big deal is that under the Privacy Act you cannot in general collect 
> personally identifiable information without a real need to do so, 
> without telling people you're doing it, and without controls on what you 
> then do with that information.  Whether it's publically available or not.
> Steve Wilson.

you've just broadcast your name - "personally identifiable information"
- to a public mailing list. I am subscribed to this list, so i have
collected it.

Have I broken the law according to Privacy Act by collecting it?

my mail server logs details about every message received - including
envelope sender email address, date, time, ip address, host name,
message-id, etc. does that mean i have broken the law?

my mail practices including archiving every email i ever send and every
non-spam email i receive. have i broken the law now?

my procmail config also feeds a copy of every email i receive into a
program called lbdb (little brother's database) so that i can search for
seen email addresses when writing an email in mutt.  Is that breaking
the law?

none of those things are illegal. neither was google receiving and
processing data which had been broadcast.

this is not a privacy infringement issue. it's a media beat-up fueled by
technical ignorance and the ever-present desire for sensationalism and
scandal (whether real or not).

this might be arcane technical knowledge that is difficult for some
people to comprehend, but if you don't want other people knowing your
name, then don't go out of your way to wear a huge flashing neon sign
saying "my name is..."


craig sanders <cas at taz.net.au>

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