Those Street View cameras aren’t just collecting pictures of streets and buildings to make Google Maps better, they’re also scooping up email addresses and passwords, Google admitted Friday.
Back in May the company announced that its Street View cars were mistakenly collecting data from unencrypted wireless networks; now they’ve acknowledged that this data included emails, url addresses, and passwords from people who were sending that data over open (non-password protected) networks when a Google car passed by.
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. [Official Google Blog]
The data-collecting code was a part of the software running on Google’s Street View cars, which have so far mapped over 30 countries, and have established a presence on every continent–including Antarctica. The software was meant to just collect basic data about the presence of WiFi networks as the car-mounted cameras snapped pictures.