• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Google accused of privacy, security violations

July 8, 2010 9:21:44 PM PDT
Could Google be violating privacy laws by snooping on you? And could Google be compromising national security? That's what a local public interest group believes is happening with the "street view" feature on Google Maps. Since 2007 in this country, and in 30 other countries, Google has been photographing homes and neighborhoods from the street. Google admits they were also collecting personal data from people's Wi-Fi networks while taking those photos. Now one consumer group wants congress to look into the possibility Google breached national security.

"This is the greatest example of wiretapping in American history," said Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court.

At a news conference Thursday in Santa Monica and in Washington, D.C., Consumer Watchdog alleged Google has illegally gathered personal information from millions of Americans, including members of congress.

One of them is California Representative Jane Harman, a current member of the Homeland Security Committee.

"This 'Wi-Spying' scandal isn't just about Google wiretapping, taking data from hundreds of millions of individuals literally across the world," said Court. "It's also about national security secrets potentially being in the open."

Last month Google admitted to collecting data through open Wi-Fi networks from the public while taking pictures of people's homes and neighborhoods. The company claims it was an accident and that it never analyzed or used the information.

Collecting such data is not difficult. It's fairly easy to find open Wi-Fi networks.

Consumer Watchdog said they sniffed around homes, including some members of congress, and found their home Wi-Fi networks to be vulnerable to intrusion.

Now Consumer Watchdog wants the U.S. Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to open an investigation into Google's activity.

"We have not had a hearing from the House Commerce Committee on this problem," said Court. "Which is startling to me."

Meantime, protect your Wi-Fi:

  • Make sure you use encryption and complex passwords.
  • Use a virtual private network for business.
  • And use a firewall.

"I just believe that members of congress, like most Americans, don't realize how at risk they are of their privacy being violated," said Court.

Although there is no proof Google actually gathered sensitive national security information, Consumer Watchdog believes Google is collecting the data for advertising purposes at least.

Consumer Watchdog also said Thursday that Google has a contract with the National Security Agency. That's the very agency that is supposed to protect our national security systems.


Load Comments