[LINK] Google's WiFi bungle

Kim Holburn kim at holburn.net
Wed May 19 10:39:28 AEST 2010

On 2010/May/19, at 9:50 AM, Richard Chirgwin wrote:

> Kim,
> The information might be "in the clear" but an open curtain doesn't
> excuse the peeping tom.

If you have a house with large areas of glass and you take off your  
clothes in full view of the street you would be an exhibitionist.   
This too is frowned upon.

> There is an underlying notion that someone who
> does something silly therefore forfeits their rights.


> RC
> Kim Holburn wrote:
>> On 2010/May/19, at 5:55 AM, Stephen Wilson wrote:
>>> I say again, this case highlights how IT and privacy remain stuck in
>>> separate worlds.  Obstinately so.
>> I'd say it highlights how people with old ideas of privacy and the
>> internet, facebook, google and modern realities of privacy are stuck
>> in separate worlds.  I am constantly amazed by what people put on
>> facebook.  Of their own volition.
>>> Kim Holburn wrote "[wifi] is not private and neither legislation nor
>>> intention is going to make it so".
>>> One more time ... it doesn't much matter how someone gets my
>>> personally
>>> identifiable information.  Unless I have consented to its collection
>>> and
>>> use, there are strict legislated constraints on what any business
>>> can do
>>> with information about me.
>> There is no personal information in wifi unless you put it there.  I
>> know people who call their wifi things like : JonesesAtNumber55 and
>> ThePetriFamily.  Not a good idea, better to call it GetOffMyLawn,
>> "Caitlin stop stealing our internet" or "Google, this is private".
>> Putting personal information in your SSID would be somewhat like the
>> neon sign.  The SSID is broadcast in the clear.
>> The MAC addresses can identify computers but not personal data.  The
>> MAC address is unique but only in a forensic sense.  It is not
>> available through a router.  Although the idea of capturing of MAC
>> addresses is getting much closer to the bone and I don't understand  
>> at
>> all why google thought it should harvest this but still, it is clear
>> broadcast information.
>>> One of the strengths of *Information* Privacy law is that it is very
>>> 'clinical'.  It skirts philosophical issues about 'public' and
>>> 'private'
>>> (for the most part not even using those terms) and concentrates
>>> instead
>>> on controlling personal information flows and uses.  It also  
>>> protects
>>> the little guy against exploitation of their own inadvertent  
>>> mistakes,
>>> like leaving their wifi network open.
>> Wifi is always to some extent open.  The mistake is using it at all  
>> if
>> privacy is what you want.
>>> Erecting a neon sign with my personal details is not the same as
>>> leaving
>>> a wifi network open.  No special equipment is needed to read a sign.
>> Ummm ... to read a sign: an education?  In the language the sign is
>> written in?  Or a camera?
>> And to read wifi: A laptop, almost any laptop or one of many mobile
>> phones?  If you add an external antenna which is not a big deal you
>> can get a lot better reception and with an antenna made from a
>> pringles packet you can do very well indeed.  As far as I can tell
>> google did not use a directional antenna though.
>>> And putting up a sign could be interpreted as giving implied consent
>>> for
>>> information on that sign to be collected by others (but even then
>>> there
>>> will be constraints on how that information can be secondarily  
>>> used).
>> This then would be my point exactly about wifi.
>>> In contrast, there is no way that simply operating a wifi network  
>>> (out
>>> of the box) represents consent for information on that network to be
>>> sniffed, collected and used for god knows what secondary purpose.
>> You see, there was a time when using a radio transmitter was
>> considered broadcasting information.  You can pretend it's not, that
>> you're not broadcasting all that data but that doesn't make it true.
>> You can pretend that this is just your private network as it's  
>> beaming
>> out over the suburb.  I would view it in much the same way as my
>> nieces and nephews putting pictures of themselves drunk on facebook.
>> No matter what people who sell wifi equipment say, it's not private.
>>> Cheers,
>>> Steve Wilson

Kim Holburn
IT Network & Security Consultant
T: +61 2 61402408  M: +61 404072753
mailto:kim at holburn.net  aim://kimholburn
skype://kholburn - PGP Public Key on request

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