Those cars that drive around your city with the multi-view cameras on the top aren't there to abduct you, they're there to be your friend and provide you with the service of being able to see any street you like through GoogleMaps in real-life color and up-to-date imagery. That's it, right? It was supposed to be all good, but Google seems to be continuously running into trouble with this service, from capturing streakers and thieves to now perhaps accidentally collecting full emails and passwords.
Today regulators in more than 30 countries (obviously, the same countries that have the cars driving around) are looking into this issue of capturing and displaying data through the online street map service. The fact that this info display might be happening was reported by Google this past May, but was thought then to only have been fragments. Now it appears that full lines of info have been disclosed without permission.
This collection of data, Google states, happened while mistakingly running piece of code from an experimental project which ran alongside a program Google intended on using to amass data on WiFi hotspots to provide location-based services. In a Friday, October 22, 2010 Google Blog post by Senior VP Alan Eustace, he had the following to say:
I would like to take this opportunity to update one point in my May blog post. When I wrote it, no one inside Google had analyzed in detail the data we had mistakenly collected, so we did not know for sure what the disks contained. Since then a number of external regulators have inspected the data as part of their investigations (seven of which have now been concluded). 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.