Did Google take data from your WiFi?
We might all be part of a class-action lawsuit against Google
- By Greg Crowe
- May 28, 2010
It looks as though there is a line forming to sue Google over its collecting wireless user data with the company's Street View camera vehicles.
As Google’s camera cars ambled down streets taking and uploading pictures, they also allegedly scooped up some other data fragments from unencrypted wireless networks. Massachusetts is trying to get all Wi-Fi users in the state as part of a class action suit, while Oregon wants its class to include users in Oregon and Washington state. California, meanwhile, is seeking class-action status for all U.S. residents. Really? I’m suing Google now?
Google had admitted earlier this month that the company has been collecting this data for a couple years, and didn’t realize it was doing it. Google claims that code for an early experimental project wound up in the Street View code. Whether you believe Google, I can tell you from experience that version control is the second hardest thing to accomplish in software development. The only thing more difficult is getting programmers to document their code. The more people that work on a project, the harder it is to make sure that the most current version of each and every piece is present before you compile the code. This makes me inclined to believe Google when it says it was unintentional.
Intentional or not, is it actionable? Some attorneys have said that there may not be a case because the data was already publicly accessible. Also, plaintiffs may have to prove that a person’s specific data was collected in order to be part of the suit. So I may not be suing Google after all.
Unfortunately, what companies like Google may learn from this is that when you make a mistake, stay quiet. Google made the announcement of the discovery that the company had inadvertently been collecting this data, and as thanks for its honesty, the company gets sued by everyone in the U.S.
I don’t really have a good answer here. I just know I need to get my suit dry-cleaned. I want to make a good impression in court in case I end up suing Google.
Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.