[kwlug-disc] [OT] Google sniffing wifi, collecting emails and passwords.

Lori Paniak ldpaniak at fourpisolutions.com
Mon Jun 21 20:02:25 EDT 2010

On Mon, 2010-06-21 at 18:48 -0400, Insurance Squared Inc. wrote:
> < rant>
> >>>So, it is less sinister than what it sounds like. A flub, but not
> out of malice, rather oversight and poor processes.
> Not even close.  It's absolutely every bit as sinister as you can
> imagine. And it's not malice, it's pure marketing via collecting your
> personal information.
> Your take:  Google is building an alternate GPS.  Because that would
> be a nice thing to do for your mom. 
> My take:  Google is building an alternate to GPS.  They will then
> 'give' that away by burying it in advertising.  You folks are still
> thinking of the actions of 2000 Google.  Google today does everything
> for $'s, though they are trafficking hard on the good will they built
> in the tech community years ago.  So, connect the dots.  They scraped
> people's emails and private information including mac addresses
> (Anyone up for a refresher on how much personal information is worth
> that includes location?).  They are then going to use that to sell
> advertising.  It's quite as direct as that.  And there tactics are
> little different than my writing a scraper to harvest email addresses
> off of 'public' websites.  That's also quite legal in Canada - as is
> then using those emails to send out commercial ads.  Android isn't any
> accident - they're going after every mobile advertising dollar they
> can get.

Yup, they are doing it to make money.  They are a publicly traded
company.  That is what they tend to do.  My opinion is that if you send
unencrypted data across the street you might as well paint it on the
front of your house too so their cameras can get it.  I don't think
there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in that case.  If a web
scraper is legal, why not an open wifi one?  Heck, throw in WEP wifi for

> If you want an example of how Google's changing, search on 'toronto
> mortgage rates' and compare what that screen looks like to Google
> 2000.  You'll probably think it's the same.  But it's not.  Above the
> fold, my screen shows 5 organic search results.  It also shows 11 ads.
> And 3 'local' results.  So, do you put the local ads as organic
> results or paid ads?  Well, in the US Google's been rolling out a paid
> feature for those local results.  Which by my count means 14 paid ads
> and 5 organic results(at the bottom of the page).  Almost a 3 to 1
> ratio of paid to organic results, and the organic results are pushed
> way down the page.  And they've moved the paid ads on the right
> physically closer to the middle column to increase clicks on the paid
> ads.  How can you call that an organic search engine when 75% of the
> page is advertising?  

Have you read a newspaper recently?  You could only hope that 25% of it
was (yesterday's) news.  If the market will support 75% paid filler and
25% data, then so be it.  In the meantime you can start up the next
great open-source distributed search engine that has *no* ads and
convince people that your product is better because it is not polluted
with all that inorganic waste.  Don't get mad.  Get even - or better.

> In short, to see this as innocuous you have to assume Google didn't
> know this information would be collected - doubtful.  You then have to
> assume that they're doing this for friendly purposes.  That assumption
> directly contradicts almost every action they've taken in the last
> years.  We're like a frog in a pan of warm water, and Google's turning
> up the heat.

If they want to crack my WPA2 then I'll see them in court.  If people
with open wifi expect privacy of any sort, they should put down the
crack.  In the meantime, I'll be checking out the current state of Alta
Vista and non-Android phones.

> I know I sound a bit like a whack job on this.  I'd like to think that
> I'm not.  I'm probably the worst capitalist on this list :).  But I
> follow Google closely and I have not seen old school Google in a
> couple of years now.  Everything coming out of the plex is insiduous
> marketing, nothing is free.  Almost everything they do or test is
> based around increasing advertising results.

Your points are well-taken.  As a web commerce expert, do you have a
touch of professional jealousy? ;)  The part I don't understand is why
this is worse/different than Apple or Microsoft?   Or any other
corporate entity?  Google has never been central to the FLOSS community
and I doubt they ever will be.  They use FLOSS products and do give
back, but their primary motivation is profit, not to promulgate the
principles of open-source.  

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