Google Will No Longer Collect WiFi Data via Street View Cars

According to a report from the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Google doesn't intend to resume the collection of WiFi data through Street View cars and will instead rely on Android handsets to gather the information.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released the preliminary findings of its investigation into Google's collection of sensitive personal data from unsecured wireless networks.

Back in May, Google discovered that its Street View cars, which were supposed to gather public WiFi information such as SSID, signal strength and MAC addresses, for its location-based services database, inadvertently captured unecrypted wireless traffic.

"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.

The Commissioner calls the incident "a careless error," but the report notes that Google does not intend to collect WiFi data via it's Street View cars anymore.

The collection stopped on May 7, 2010, immediately after the company learned of the privacy breach, but it was never clear if it plans to resume it after resolving the problems.

It now looks that Google has opted to kill the Street View WiFi data collection project completely and plans to rely on Android handsets to get the job done instead.

The company plans to carefully examine the potential privacy risks related to this new method, but stressed that it doesn't plan to create any tool that would keep track of individual user locations.

"With Android, location-sharing is opt-in. Whether we're talking about location provider services or individual apps that use location, Android provides users with notice and control over collection of location, sharing of location and use of location to help provide a better mobile experience...

"We don't share individual location collected from user devices with any applications or services," a Google spokesperson told CNET.

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