Privacy Commissioner: Google Street View collected data from wireless networks illegally

The Office opf the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has ruled that Google violated Canadian privacy laws by inappropriately collecting information from unsecured wireless networks during the compilation of data for their Google Street View program.

Google’s vans, which were photographing Canadian streets, were also on the lookout for free, public Wi-Fi hotspots for inclusion with Street View. Of course, many of those hotspots turned out to be private citizens’ unsecured wireless networks, and sensitive information was gathered by the trucks, including e-mails, usernames, passwords, phone numbers and addresses.

“Our investigation shows that Google did capture personal information – and, in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as complete e-mails. This incident was a serious violation of Canadians’ privacy rights,” said Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

“This incident was the result of a careless error — one that could easily have been avoided.”

Stoddart has recommended that Google improve oversight within the company and improve privacy training. The matter will be resolved in the eyes of Stoddart once she has received confirmation from Google that her concerns have been addressed, no later than February 1st, 2011. Google has said that they plan to follow the recommendations.

The moral of this story? Put a password on your damn Wi-Fi networks, Canada!