Google wipes Street View data, guts cars

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Update to kill sniffing software.

Google has deleted its Australian Street View payload data, which it revealed last October included emails, URLs and passwords. 

“First, you may remember that our ultimate goal was to delete the payload data. We can report that this was completed in February under independent supervision,” Alan Eustace, Google US senior vice president of engineering and research wrote on a Google Australia blog post

Google also provided a written declaration that it had gutted its Subaru Imprezas of radio, Wi-Fi equipment and software it previously used during its packet-sniffing roaming.

We removed all WiFi equipment from our Street View cars and will not be collecting any WiFi data via the Street View cars,” said Eustace.    

Details were included in its first Street View privacy impact assessment, which it had promised to Australia's Office of the Privacy Commissioner in response to the commission's negative findings published last July.  

The removed hardware included “external USB wireless network adaptors and external radio antennas”, which left the cars incapable of collecting Wi-Fi data since its on-board computers “lack built-in wireless network cards”.

A software update would delete a host of packet-sniffing and data collection tools when its Australian fleet of Subaru Imprezas were next activated, it said.

These included gslite, gstumbler, Kismet, Wireshark, and tcpdump, which would - along with the hardware removed - leave the cars incapable of collecting even publicly available information, such as MAC addresses. 

“Street View vehicles will have neither the hardware nor the software to detect, collect or store 802.11 wireless network data - including SSIDs (Service Set Identifiers), MAC (Media Access Control) addresses, and payload data,” Google said in its assessment.  

It added that all its Australian Street View vehicles would be inspected prior to their re-activation to ensure the updates were properly deployed. 

“We want to reiterate to Australians that our collection of payload data was a mistake for which we are sincerely sorry,” said Eustace.

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