Saturday, October 23, 2010

WTF? This is Google's Fault?

I'm having trouble seeing what this flap is all about.  The facts in the story are this: Google sends it's “Street View” vehicles up and down every street and road in the world, recording photos that can then be seen on their online maps.  It's a wonderful feature that I use all the time.  These vehicles record not only the photos, though; they also keep a record of the wireless networks they happen to see as they're cruising by.  These days, practically every house has one. I'm not sure what Google is planning to do with this information, but it's just stuff in the airwaves that they're picking up – the same way that anyone who drove by could do.

Somehow, some people are interpreting this as a violation of their privacy.  This is the part that completely escapes me.  Two factors argue against any expectation of privacy.

First, the wireless data is stuff that the homeowner chose to broadcast.  Suppose the homeowner chose to hang a large sign outside their house, and on that sign ws the homeowner's bank account number and access password.  Would we expect that information to be private?  I think not!  Would we expect the homeowner to behave like that?  Only if they were morons!

And this leads directly to the second factor: this wireless information is very easily secured.  Every wireless router (the gadget that lets you create a wireless network at home) has a simple means to encrypt the information broadcast on the network.  All any homeowner has to do is turn this encryption feature on, and then neither Google nor any other passer-by can read that information.  Why doesn't everyone turn this on?  I haven't the foggiest idea, but I can't see how that failure can in any way become Google's problem...

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