[LINK] Google's WiFi bungle

Stephen Wilson swilson at lockstep.com.au
Wed May 19 08:15:32 AEST 2010

Stilgherrian wrote:
>  On 19/05/2010, at 7:38 AM, Richard Chirgwin wrote:
> > Google does not respect privacy: its habitual stance is to do
> > exactly what it wants, then adopt a belligerent "you can't stop us"
> > stance. ...
>  True enough. There's also an element of "Hey, it would be really cool
>  if we did X!" at Google, thinking of the possibilities of making some
>  useful too, without thinking of the broader implications. Perhaps
>  this is the result of people working in self-referential "campuses"
>  where the bulk of their conversations are with like-minded folks.

It's also a result of the gulf between the worlds of IT and privacy.  IT 
practitioners might say they understand that privacy and *security* are 
not the same thing, but then they turn around and act as though privacy 
and secrecy *are* the same thing, because if information is "public" 
they think privacy no longer applies. 

There seems to be a lack of awareness at Google and elsewhere that 
information privacy law prohibits the arbitrary collection of personal 
information.  The deepest and apparently most misunderstood privacy 
principle is that businesses are not allowed to collect personal 
information without an express need or without consent, whether the 
source data is in the public domain or not.

As a window into their privacy-oblivious culture, it's telling that an 
engineer in Google had no qualms at all (and nobody else noticed or 
cared) about writing surveillance software that collected wifi network 
data -- just because it was cool to do so.


Steve Wilson.

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