NPR logo Google Grabs Personal Info Off Wi-Fi Networks


Google Grabs Personal Info Off Wi-Fi Networks

Google acknowledged Friday that it inadvertently collected private information from the Wi-Fi networks inside people's homes.

Google isn't the only company that uses cars to photograph neighborhoods for its mapping service, but it acknowledged its vehicles also contain receivers that pick up Wi-Fi signals. The receivers were supposedly just collecting the names and addresses of Wi-Fi networks to use in mapping programs for smart phones.

But Google Vice President Alan Eustace now says people with open Wi-Fi networks may have lost more than that.

"If they happened to be transmitting at the exact moment that the car went by, whatever they happened to be transmitting at that moment would have been picked up," Eustace said.

The company says it only recently discovered it has accumulated about 600 gigabytes of data transmitted over public Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries. Google says none of the information has appeared in its search engine or other services.

Eustace said the data collection was a mistake, the information was never used and Google will stop collecting all Wi-Fi information from the cars that take photographs for its "Street View" feature on its mapping service.

The admission is likely to raise more worries about potential privacy breaches as Google gathers volumes of personal information through its search engine and other services.

Article continues after sponsorship

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report