I just heard this thing about google wading into hot water in the EU because they drove around collecting data from open wifi networks:
TechNewsWorld: European Privacy Officials Steamed Over Google's WiFi Sniffing Slip
Google blames Wi-Fi snooping on rogue engineer â€¢ The Register
Now, we all know how easy this is -- you probably don't even need to be a programmer, just learn to use wireshark, and doubtless countless twelve year olds do this in residential areas, etc, the world over -- but I'm also sure this point will be lost on the media and the public. Another, vaguely similar fuss I thought was interesting recently was the one about Facebook and privacy, especially when I finally heard the CEO describe that facebook does not actually sell any kind of data. The issue is that data that appears publicly on the web can be mined by external applications. I'd think this point would be obvious? That is not Facebook's fault.
So why the fuss? I suppose it's good for people to at least think about these things, just it seems a shame they do it in the wrong direction. Possibly this ignorance really is media driven: a misunderstanding is not as interesting a story as something more machiavellian.
I wanted to find out how people who have some above zero technical understanding of what's involved (such as yerself) feel. I'm not sure why Google would want to do this, but considering anyone and everyone could, getting upset with them seems counter to making a real point: that people should be aware of what "packet sniffing" and "open wifi networks" really are.
But AFAICT, again, this is not the message the media is putting out -- they are trying to make it sound much more exciting -- like Google was exercising some kind of high tech wizardry, with specially equipt surveillance vehicles. I presume this is merely because sensationalism sells, but I also worry that it fosters two things among the public: FEAR and IGNORANCE that could be used by the truly nefarious* to ramp up "web security" laws, etc.
* eg, here I am mainly thinking of large corporate entities that may see some advantage to themselves with the enactment of certain laws and hence fund PR and lobbyists to this end in the guise of "safety and security".