Google patent raises questions over WiFi sniffing

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Google patent raises questions over WiFi sniffing

Google is trying to patent the very technology which enabled the illegal sniffing of data via WiFi networks, leading to a massive backlash against the company last month

Google's claims last month that its wide-scale collection of private information via WiFi networks was an accident has been thrown into serious doubt with attorneys for a class action against the company revealing that the company is trying to patent the very technology that facilitated it.


Lawyers for the class action submitted details of the patent application last week as part of an amended complaint. The class action is seeking damages of $US100,000 for each person whose data privacy has been compromised.

In revealing the privacy breaches last month, Google contradicted previous assurances that its Street View Cars catalogued SSID and MAC addresses of wireless access points without examining the actual payloads moving between them, nor the users involved.

The patent application describes a method devised by Google for gathering and analyzing data sent via wireless access points. The application says the device "may be placed in a vehicle and data may be obtained continuously or at predetermined time increments" and that the speed of the vehicle "may be factored into the analysis.

The incident raises further concerns about Google's commitment to data privacy, which has come under increased scrutiny over the last few years, and comes as the company prepares a major marketing blitz to promote its new Chrome OS operating system later in the year.

However Chrome OS requires that users be comfortable operating in the cloud, something they won't be if Google can't convince users that their data is secure.

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