Town Square

Google "mortified" by privacy violations

Original post made by GoogleWatch, News on Mountain View's largest employer, on Oct 25, 2010

Google apologized Friday for inadvertently collecting personal emails and passwords from private wireless networks while collecting data for the street view feature in Google maps.

[Web Link On Google's official blog], Alan Eustace, Google's vice president of engineering and research, apologized for the privacy violations, saying "we are mortified by what happened."

Google's fleet of cars that drive around taking pictures for street view were equipped with experimental software that inadvertently captured unencrypted data from private wireless networks. Google's intention is to create a map of private networks for geo-location products.

In response, Google has appointed an internal privacy chief and is training its employees to prevent such incidents in the future.

"A number of external regulators have inspected the data as part of their investigations (seven of which have now been concluded)," Eustace wrote. "It's clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords. We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologize again for the fact that we collected it in the first place. We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users."