Google in privacy row over its wi-fi mapping
Google was accused of intruding into people's privacy yesterday after it was disclosed that the company had mapped every wireless network in Britain.
Every wi-fi wireless router, which links many computer owners to the internet, has been entered into a Google database for commercial purposes.
The information was collected by radio aerials on Google's street view cars, which have now photographed almost every home in Britain, and have extensively mapped towns and cities throughout Ireland.
The company's obligations concerning the wi-fi data are not clear. However, privacy campaigners in Britain said there had been a breakdown in regulation.
"The ghost of street view continues to haunt Google. It will be viewed historically as an horrendous breach of law," a privacy spokesman said.
The data compiled by Google is used on a mobile map application to help pinpoint the location of mobile phones so users can get information on local services. Cable connections were not recorded.
The project was secret until an inquiry in Germany earlier this month, in which Google was forced to admit that it "mistakenly" downloaded emails and other data from unsecured wireless networks that were not protected by a password.
The scale of the project in Britain has now become clear. Google pointed out that other companies had already mapped wireless networks, notably Skyhook Wireless, which has a contract with Apple.
Google said the information, which lists the networks' MAC (Media Access Control) address and SSID (Service Set-ID) number, but not their house number, was publicly available because network signals extended beyond properties. (© Daily Telegraph, London)