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Author Topic: Power corrupts... and absolute power...  (Read 1437 times)

wraith808

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Power corrupts... and absolute power...
« on: May 28, 2010, 10:44:57 AM »
Maybe their power isn't absolute yet, but if it was, I shudder to see what they'd be like then.

Google faces German Street View data blunder deadline.

True, the people were idiots for having insecure wi-fi.  Or were they?  Do we know that these weren't HotSpots at cafe's an the like?  But no matter what, heads should roll over at google for this if the harvesting was truly unauthorised.  But, I think that's a CYA move.  What knucklehead gathers info over open wi-fi while taking video/pictures for a google initiative unless it's authorised at some level?

Of course, the EFF does have a point about the turning over of the data:
Quote
"To allow a government to investigate a privacy breach by further violating privacy is senseless."

JavaJones

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Re: Power corrupts... and absolute power...
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2010, 01:41:55 PM »
If you believe Google's explanation of events - and I have no reason not to since they *volunteered* this information - then I don't think Google is any demonstration of the "absolute power" maxim whatsoever, and I think it's a knee-jerk reaction to "big, powerful, scary company!" to say otherwise without a clear case as to why.

The EFF's point is the key here. Google has done the "right thing" in at least one other case where they were asked to destroy the disk and happily complied, with a 3rd party witness present to certify its destruction. Clearly they're not unwilling to comply with appropriate mandates. But it's questionable, especially given Germany's current stance on open wifi, whether it's "right" for Google to turn over the data to the government there (from a moral rather than legal standpoint). After all, they might just want a list of users to try to fine!

By the way, here's an interesting update:
http://www.washingto...AR2010052705595.html

- Oshyan

wraith808

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Re: Power corrupts... and absolute power...
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2010, 02:31:10 PM »
If you believe Google's explanation of events - and I have no reason not to since they *volunteered* this information <snip />

Volunteered under what pressures?  If there was no pressure for the incident to be known, then why would Google even say anything about the issue?  That doesn't seem very savvy for a company that's seen how these things play out.  Who wouldn't doubt that the release of such information would lead to the quagmire that currently exists?

JavaJones

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Re: Power corrupts... and absolute power...
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2010, 03:41:36 PM »
I'm not aware of any evidence of pressure on this specific issue. There was prior pressure from the German government about Street View itself in 2009, before Google was authorized to begin actually collecting photo data. They then did so with the by then standard practice (for them, and many other companies) of reading wifi network SSIDs and locations using a standard tool of some kind. Apparently Germany was unaware that they were gathering SSID info, whether through intentional omission on Google's part (possibly, but I'm not aware of proof), or simply oversight by the German government. Germany objected to *the collection of SSIDs and locations*, but was not at that time aware of the collection of other data (packet traffic) that Google had also performed. This is a news story from around that time, before the news of Google's additional data collection broke:
http://www.ndtv.com/...treet-view-22133.php

It was after this point then that Google *volunteered* the information that they had "accidentally" collected other data while scanning SSIDs. From the opinions I've read of a wide range of technology experts familiar with the kind of systems and software one might use to scan for SSIDs from a moving vehicle, it just so happens that most of the tools - especially free/open source that Google might be prone to use, or base their own tool off of - do in fact *by default* collect more than just the SSID info, basically they're network scanners that log whatever they find. Google erred (supposedly) in not turning off unnecessary parts of these tools, e.g. limiting it to SSID detection and logging only. But it *seems* like an honest mistake that could have been made.

So basically they volunteered information that could have been further incriminating. They might have done so on the assumption that the info would come out in an investigation by the German government later anyway, which might have looked worse, but I daresay few companies will still have volunteered the info.

Anyway that's the story as I've heard it from multiple sources. If you've got info to the contrary please share it.

- Oshyan

Renegade

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Re: Power corrupts... and absolute power...
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2010, 05:28:32 PM »
Ahem... Being the sadist that I am, I would love to see some Germans and foreign nationals in Germany dirty their undergarments...

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Its German counterpart [ ed. UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) ] has asked to see the data before it proceeds, and has sought answers from Google to a range of technical questions about how the data was gathered and stored.

Now, if you still have clean underwear, you obviously didn't understand that, or are very optimistic or naive... Or I'm paranoid... ;) :P

I really doubt that is a simple "investigation". It sounds too much like a ministry slobbering over a voyeuristic opportunity. The EFF is absolutely right.

Quote
In the UK, the country's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has ordered the firm to destroy the data which it collected in 2008.

And that makes me think that the UK just doesn't need/care for the data as they already have it through Echelon.

I'm certainly less worried about Google than I am about governments. Corporations don't have secret police. Governments do. Corporations don't come knocking at your door because you surfed a site that they don't like. Governments do. (It has happened to me before -- I'm really not paranoid. ;) :P ) The German reaction there seems very scary. "Ooooh! You have naughty information? Oh, please let me see too~!"

My question is: Is this story *really* about Google, or is it about different governments?

On a semi-related tangent, this reminds me of California Über Alles.
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker