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

Khalid Baheyeldin kb at 2bits.com
Mon Jun 21 20:05:59 EDT 2010


On Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 6:48 PM, Insurance Squared Inc. <
gcooke at insurancesquared.com> 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.
>

Sure, Google is in all this for the money. Their free services is for
increasing their real estate footprint on the web to sell more advertising
that is relevant.

But in all this, what really is of value to them is the fixed MAC addresses.
The MAC address of your laptop, netbook, iPhone, ..etc. is of no value since
it is transient and ever changing. They want the access points which will be
in place for a year or two, and can be used as reference points against the
GPS position of their Google van.

The email address is incidental. They perhaps held onto it in the hope it
can be useful or just out of complacence "this is not important".


> 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?
>

Well, use Bing instead if you don't like Google. It is not like they are
forced down the throat of anyone. Use them for their merit.


> 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.
>

I see them as an advertising company that have some useful technologies.
Nothing more. They can't provide the service for free, and once they cross
the comfort threshold (varies from one person to the other), and there is an
alternative (or two), people will switch.


> 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.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On 21/06/10 05:04 PM, Khalid Baheyeldin wrote:
>
> It was in a sense accidental, because they used an existing open source
> technology to capture wifi packets (Kismet, and something called gslite
> along with it).
>
> Background: Google wants to build an alternate to GPS navigation in the
> cities, so any Wifi enabled device will be able to listen to what access
> points are out there and then query Google's database online and deduce its
> exact location. For this, they need the MAC address, and the signal
> strength.
>
> Here is their patent for it
>
> http://industry.bnet.com/technology/10005017/google-trying-to-deduce-wireless-location-info-bypass-carriers/
>
> So, they recorded what the tool provided, not that they intentionally
> wanted to capture the other stuff. This happened to contain packets that had
> email fragments, HTTP, or other stuff that just happened to be on the air at
> the time, and unencrypted.
>
> Where they went wrong is not filtering this data to only what they need
> (MAC address, signal strength) and/or discarding it quickly.
>
> Here is a report by a consulting firm on that incident
> http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/wifi-data-collection-update.html
>
> Specifically:
>
> http://www.google.com/googleblogs/pdfs/friedberg_sourcecode_analysis_060910.pdf
>
>
> http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/06/19/1635200/Why-Googles-Wi-Fi-Payload-Collection-Was-Inadvertent
>
> So, it is less sinister than what it sounds like. A flub, but not out of
> malice, rather oversight and poor processes.
> --
> Khalid M. Baheyeldin
> 2bits.com, Inc.
> http://2bits.com
> Drupal optimization, development, customization and consulting.
> Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. --  Edsger W.Dijkstra
> Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. --   Leonardo da Vinci
>
>
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-- 
Khalid M. Baheyeldin
2bits.com, Inc.
http://2bits.com
Drupal optimization, development, customization and consulting.
Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. --  Edsger W.Dijkstra
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. --   Leonardo da Vinci
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