Google Has Been Fibbing About Data Mining

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Consumer Watchdog Reckons It’s in Cahoots with US Gov

    Consumer Watchdog has said that the Energy and Commerce Committee really must conduct hearings into Google privacy violations, with information coming to light about Google’s classified contracts with the US government.

    Consumer Watchdog’s John M. Simpson wrote in a letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee: “It appears that Google holds classified US government contracts to supply search and geospatial information to the US government. In addition, White House records show that Google executives have been holding meetings with US national security officials for undisclosed reasons. Finally, it also appears that Google’s widely criticized efforts to collect wireless network data on American  citizens were not inadvertent, contrary to the company’s claims.”

    The letter suggests that an affiliation between Google and the US intelligence squad on collecting data, or indeed any giant corporation, will be a “toxic combination” for the US constitution.

    The watchdog reckons that Google’s claim that the code which collected data from WiFi accidentally is a load of rubbish. Looking at a patent application from Google [PDF] covering the gathering of WiFi data, which was published in January, makes it clear in the eyes of Consumer Watchdog that the collection was “a very deliberate effort to assemble as much information as possible about US residential and business WiFi networks”.

    “What the patent does show is that Google’s recent claims about how the Street View program was designed are not accurate, and that the company always intended to collect and store the packets of wireless data,” Jon said in the letter.

    “The patent makes repeated reference to capturing packets, including paragraph 0055, which states that the system will enable geolocations so long as the equipment being used is ‘able to capture and properly decode a packet’. This raises serious questions about whether Google has engaged in a reckless effort to amass private data without giving any thought to the possible misuse of that information, and whether it can be trusted to safeguard the information it collects from the prying eyes of the US government.”

    Consumer Watchdog says that White House visitor logs show that Google topdog Alan Davidson – who is director of public policy and government affairs – has had at least three meetings with the National Security Council, one of them with White House senior director for Russian affairs Mike McFaul and another with the Middle East advisor Daniel Shapiro.

    What is the story here?

    London is playing host to Big Brother Watch UK’s Google and Privacy event which will have a focus on Street View. We’ll be interested to see if anything comes to light.

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