Street View picks up passwords

2010-10-24 20:45

Washington - Google said on Friday it was strengthening its privacy and security practices after its Street View mapping service gathered private wireless data, including emails and passwords, in dozens of countries.

Alan Eustace, Google's senior deputy president of engineering and research, said the internet giant was appointing a director of privacy "to ensure that we build effective privacy controls into our products and internal practices".

Google would also enhance privacy training and require employees to take part in a new "information security awareness programme," Eustace said in a blog post.

"We work hard at Google to earn your trust, and we're acutely aware that we failed badly here," he said. "So we've spent the past several months looking at how to strengthen our internal privacy and security practices."

Eustace said a detailed analysis of the Wi-Fi data collected for Street View found 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 apologise again for the fact that we collected it in the first place," he said.

"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," Eustace said.

In June, Google said it had already deleted private wireless data mistakenly collected by its Street View cars in Austria, Denmark and Ireland.

According to Google, Street View cars taking photographs of cities in more than 30 countries inadvertently gathered data sent over unsecured Wi-Fi systems.

Google has since stopped the collection of Wi-Fi data, used to provide location-based services such as driving directions in Google Maps and other products, by Street View cars.