Google Wi-Fi Data Capture Unethical, But Not Illegal

    Date14 Jun 2010
    CategoryPrivacy
    3005
    Posted ByAlex
    Google is under global scrutiny for its "accidental" gathering of wi-fi data while driving about photographing the world with its Street View camera cars. In the court of public opinion Google's actions cross ethical boundaries, but whether or not the activities were illegal depends on the laws in place for the given jurisdiction. Businesses in the United States should understand that the interception of publicly available data traversing the airwaves is probably not illegal. Granted, "probably" is not a very legally precise term, but the reality is that publicly-available wireless networks fall into a legal gray area that isn't defined very well. Google didn't "steal" anything, or even violate any expectation of privacy per se. All Google did was intercept airwaves that were trespassing in its vehicles.

    The lesson for businesses and IT administrators is that you have to put forth some effort to at least give the appearance that you intend for the information to be private in order for there to be any inherent expectation of privacy. The burden should not be on Google, or the general public to have to determine whether the data you let freely fly about unencrypted is meant to be shared or is intended for a specific audience.

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