Posted by & filed under Cloud Computing, M-commerce, Security, wireless networks.

Description: Thousands of websites and millions of pieces of private data are increasingly in one big cloud, where some of the old rules of data security are out the window.

Source: CNN.Tech

Date: Oct 23, 2010

Google admitted in a blog post Friday that external regulators have discovered that e-mails, URLs and passwords were collected and stored in a technical mishap, while the vehicles for Google’s Street View service were out documenting roadway locations.

According to Google, data was mistakenly collected in more than 30 countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, some of Europe, and parts of Asia.      Click here for rest of story

Questions for discussion:

  • Did Google handle this breach of privacy correctly from a public relations point of view?
  • Does Google’s breach of trust influence your decision to use their products? Why or Why not?
  • Who should police companies to make sure that privacy and security is ensured for all?

29 Responses to “Google admits to accidentally collecting e-mails, URLs, passwords”

  1. Tyson Hickey

    Did Google handle this breach of privacy correctly from a public relations point of view?
    I think that from a public relations view google has handled this privacy issue quite well. It is no surprise or shock that google knows virtually everything about us and what we do when we are using their products and services, and the fact that they keep all of it and the only way to see that information is if it is course ordered makes me feel like my information is secure with google (and I am sure I am not the only one).
    Does Google’s breach of trust influence your decision to use their products? Why or Why not?
    In no way would i stop using google or their products because they are keeping my search results and any other information i release while i am using their products. With more information comes more advancements in technology and what we can do with technology. If googles knows what we do online all the time and what we want to know then they can develop products to help aid us in these areas and therefore its a good thing that they watch and record what we do.
    Who should police companies to make sure that privacy and security is ensured for all?
    In terms of policing these kinds of privacy and security issues i think that any major organization or company should be able to police themselves in terms of ethicallity. The government will create rules and regulations to what organizations can keep and how much of it we will have access to but until the government gets there i believe the organization has its own duty to be safe and protect our information to the best of their ability.


  2. Crystal

    I believe that Google did handle this situation correctly. They know what they did is wrong and have taken responsibility for their mistake. The countries involved are aware of Google’s mistake and can take the actions they see fit. Google has stopped collecting WiFi data from their street view cars and has already deleted the data collected in some countries. By making this mistake Google can now improve their “internal privacy and security practices,” which will in the end benefit us as users.

    This will not in any way influence my decision to use their products. As far as I’m concerned nothing is completely private anymore. Once you identify yourself on the internet, anyone can find you. Having Google (a well known company) mistakenly collect data from users is not the worst thing that could happen. I rather is be Google then some other unknown source. Their mistake hasn’t affected me in any way and they are fixing the problem. Google has good products, this one mistake doesn’t change that.

  3. Justine Kennedy

    Companies should be policing themselves. Public policy involvement, as it stands, remains largely at the descretion of the company. Governemnt regulation is in fact a factor however social responsibility and reactions to social issues such as the one discussed in this article should be delt with by the corporation itself. Adopting a CSR plan is in the best interest of the company as it is the direction in wich business is heading as we enter a period of increased competition of all forms of resources. Privacy and security of Googles stakeholders seems to be important as the blog clearly stated their faults. This is a good step for google as it shows initiative. However, a better approach to any social issue is generally to be proactive rather than reactive to issues such as this. The cheapest, most economically sound, and ethical way of dealing with issues such is this is preventing them in the first place. It should have been Googles responisibility to ensure that their stakeholders privacy and security were taken care of in the first place. (especially with a company as widely known as google)


  4. Trevor Hincks

    I think Google did exactly what they needed to do, in order to handle this ordeal. It’s a difficult situation when information like this comes out, but this gives Google users confidence as Google released this information through a blog, rather than an outside source reporting it first. This situation obviously damages Google’s reputation, but I think that the best thing they can do in handling it, is to give the impression that they’re working in the best interests of their customers, and from this release it appears that they are.
    I agree with Tyson, in that with Google able to use this information, they can better serve their customers, but at the same time, it does leave me, as a customer, feeling uneasy knowing that Google can find and use any of the information that I am exchanging on the internet. This also leads the customers realizing just how susceptible we are to identity theft, etc.


  5. Mark Molendyk

    I think that Google handled themselves in a correct manner. Google made a mistake and they realized it. I feel that the information that they have is secure and they won’t use it for the wrong reasons.
    I am going to continue to use their product because they are keeping my results for what I am serching for while using their products. They will make this process better and improve the search process on google. With more information, more changes will occur to make it a better feature of google. Also with this information, it will give google ideas for new programs to make it easy for the consumer to use.
    I think it is the organizations responsibility to keep the information safe and secure. Companies have to be aware that if they do not do this, it will cause more issues with society and that is the last thing an organization like google would want

  6. Kelly L

    Google handled this situation in the best way possible, stopping the collection of WiFi data and deleting the collected information that they could. Although Google’s Street View vehicles mistakenly and unknowingly gathered personal information through WiFi, they came forward and confessed their mistake. It does make me wonder how safe the internet really is if it is that simple to have private information, especially passwords, collected and viewed by others. If my information was collected during this time, I would feel extremely violated that my personal information was taken from me. I hope that Google will find a way of notifying those whose information may have been available for others to view. So far, Google has been taking the steps necessary for their users to gain back trust in them.

  7. Kayley F

    In response to discussion question #2:

    Google’s breach of trust does not influence my decision to utilize their product. Although Google records history of their users for up to a year and a half, their intention is not to scope out an individual’s personal e-mails and search queries as the sheer mass of clientele is too much great. Furthermore, the government holds Google accountable to store the information for a certain period of time for legal matters, such as for subpoenas. Instead, their purpose is to notice trends and scope out possible business opportunities for growth. I do not believe Google is tracking my individual activity on their website as an attack on my privacy, but rather as a small bit of data in the larger picture of their users.

  8. Claudia R

    The article deals with a problem that has gained increasing importance in the last few years: internet and individuals’ privacy.It is clear that we have to get used to the idea that our need and interest in having a lot of information, using new web services that simplify our life, being able to connect to the web everywhere and at every time, can cause a restriction of our privacy.That does not mean that companies like Google should be authorized to get into our private life, collecting passwords and other personal data;they should update their technologies to avoid such situations.However, I think that the sentence quoted in the interview to the Google CEO clearly explains the extent to which Google can observe and get to know our lives simply through our web searches: “We know where you are, we know where you have been, we can more or less know what are you thinking about”.

  9. Mary Elizabeth Telfer

    I like the way that Google handled this, and I think that it shows integrity that they have outside auditors looking into what they are doing. On the other hand, people should know that when you are sitting in a WiFi hotspot your information can be tracked by other people. By using an unsecured network you are basically putting your information out there for anyone to see. I think these people are lucky that Google has their information and not some other company or person who may use the information in a negative way. If there were anyone that I would want to have my information it would be Google!
    Also, in a society where we are so used to exposing ourselves online through social networking sites, blogs like this one, or other sites should we really expect privacy anymore? Unless you are totally computer illiterate and have never ever been on the internet, chances are you are on the internet somewhere, and you have no control over who sees that information. We are just lucky that Google doesn’t care about the individual, they care about the masses and what we as a whole are doing online.

  10. Alyssa Brink

    I think that google handled this breach of information from a public relations point of view quite well. Although they can’t go back and change what happened, they are doing their best to make sure that it will not happen again by training their employees better and making sure they are more careful. Google could have ignored the fact that they got people emails etc but they chose to be honest with society and tell them the truth. That takes a lot of courage from a major corporation that so many people are using today; they could lose many customers. They took the right steps after the incident by deleting the information from their systems and making a sincere apology. Society is becoming so reliant on the internet that we should expect our information to end up in someone else’s hands eventually. In this situation, it happened to be google.

  11. Tyson Baldrey

    Personally, I feel as though Google’s transparency with the public has helped them avoid a PR nightmare. Personal information is what we designate as “for our eyes only” or for those who we give permission. When the public looses trust in a company, no matter what size, it is bound to affect their ability to market and sell their products. The demise of Lehman Brothers is a perfect example of this. In this case, gambling on the public’s sympathy and their trust in Google as paid off. I think it is safe to say that if this was swept under the rug and then uncovered to the public Google would be in a far deeper hole. Corporate scandals amongst globally competitive companies almost always spark controversy and fuel conspiracies.

  12. Dulcie

    It’s quite interesting how Google is able to keep records of all of our searches. I do believe that Google handled this breach well. From a public relations point of view I think it’s necessary for the company to address the current issues they are facing in regards to privacy. It allows their customers, and other using their products to become fully aware of how much privacy they have when using. This would not influence my decision to buy/use their products. I imagine to a certain extend that all networking companies have a certain amount of access to one’s personal information as well. I doubt Google is the only one guilty of privacy issues. I think that maybe just because they are the worlds largest – there is a bigger concern for the public. Therefore, making them a greater target. When discussing “policing” – I think that the only way to solve this would be to have the Government create certain Privacy Laws that must be implemented by companies like Google.

  13. coco dong

    i believe this mistake google had done is accidently.The right thing google did is that they admited it right away and took responsibility of collecting unencrypted WiFi data by mistake through its Street View service. it still proved that google is a reliable tool for me. it won’t affect me to be doubtful of what google had done for some spy purposes. Google stoped collecting wifi data and delete the data as soon as possible which fixed their mistake immediately. As a user of google for years, I didn’t have any threaten from google tools. This events only alert goole to think about how to strengthen their internal privacy and security practices. we believe their promise by their saying that ends up benefit all of users.

  14. Dave S

    In my opinion, Google handled this situation in the best way they possibly could have. In admitting that they breached the privacy of their users themselves, Google is protecting the image of their business. Google took all the right steps in: Informing the public on a global scale, taking responsibility, communicating the method to which the problem will be solved, and assuring users that this problem will not happen in the future while strengthening its internal security and privacy practices.

    This incident will not deter me from using their products. As a frequent user of the internet and its various applications, I am aware of the risks of breached privacy and security. Having knowledge of these risks makes me aware and cautious as to what personal content I am allowing on the internet. Therefore, this breach of trust does not especially pertain to myself. Also, I trust that Google, with its reputable business model and customer service, will not allow this mistake to happen again.

  15. Alex Dechant

    The way this story has unfolded, it appears that this was the work of a great public relations team. This could have turned out very badly for google and publics trust for this company could have been completely jeopardized. If anything this story has shown that we CAN trust this company with our information as they appear to only be using it to help our society as a whole. I believe that every individual is responsible for their own security when using the internet to some degree. First off, it is well known, or at least it should be, that networks that are not encrypted with a password are at risk of being infiltrated. Google has really shown us how easy it can be to access all our personal information that has not been secured. They did it by accident apparently! It is very good to see that this company is taking all the proper steps here to avoid such a potential disaster.

  16. Alicia Lozynsky

    I have been a frequent user of google from their search engine to google earth, however I have thought of the amount of privacy they offer. The thought that everything you do online is now recorded and kept in archives seems intrusive and can make you think why. Personally I don’t think that there is a need to keep personal information of people unless it’s a paid site. With a company as big as google and with so many users it’s a price you have to pay to use their products. I think there should be regulations on privacy with companies such as google who can pretty much get their hands on any sort of personal information- there should be a limit.

  17. Judy

    I think Google handled this violation of collecting private data rather well. They came forward, admitted what they did, and how it happened. I think they would have lost a lot more trust, loyalty, and respect from the public had they not handled it the way they did. I think it is safe to say that lots of people feel rather uneasy about this violation of privacy, but that many will continue using Google products. However, being as dependent on the internet as we are, leads me to wonder how much of our private information is exposed or collected without us being aware of it.

  18. Jesse Smith

    Just like many large corporations, Google had a great PR team set in place to handle a situation such as this. They obviously noted their mistake and felt that it would be the responsible choice to “nip it in the butt” before it went any further out of control. This is a far better choice then if they were to try to hide this mistake. As well, with the way that they handled the situation, they kept the public at bay, and only temporarily bothered users, maintaining the good relationship they have with their customers. Although any human being does make mistakes, it seems at times that the public holds companies such as this and others on the internet to a higher level of accountability. We have been raised in a society that is okay with sharing personal information on both the web, and through phone. However, most people have come to realize that this puts yourself at risk for having this information used, or saved. Essentially, they dealt with the problem well, and due to this google will not see too much of future consequences for this mistake.

  19. Mickenzie Czech

    Yes google admitted collecting data on an unsecured wifi. The key word here is unsecured, if people using the internet are willing to use an unsecured line to transmit vital personal information a risk that you are taking is that someone is collecting the information. Google came forward and said yes it happened but how many other individuals and companies are collecting the information and not admitting to it? I think that there are a lot. If we are willing to open our lives up to the internet we have to be willing to accept the risks that come with using this technology. One such risk is that our personal lives really aren’t personal anymore. If you have a problem with information being collected about you, you probably shouldn’t use the internet.

  20. Lauryn

    I have to admit that I like that Google has admitted their mistake and that they are taking the blame for it along with working on a way to fix it so that it does not happen again. Many people may have mixed emotions about the situation and may refrain from using Google products, however, I have always used Google as a search engine, and I will continue to use Google because they know that they were wrong and they are working to fix it.

  21. Sydney H.

    From a public relations point of view I feel this breach of security was handled correctly. Google is a company that says it will always act honestly. Admitting to their failure supports Google’s code of conduct, which people will remember; furthermore, Google draws an image of their own horror over the mistake. People are left thinking Google made a mistake but they were truly disappointed and took actions to correct their errors. Perhaps Google should have chosen a medium other than a blog post to admit their error, although blogs are an informal, personal way of connecting with people. A newspaper article would have been taken more professionally, however it would have garnered more attention and possibly much more negative feedback. In this case my decision to use Google products has not been influenced. They accidentally collected data, honestly admitted to their mistake, and quickly dealt with the failure by deleting information when possible, securing information if not possible, and stopping the collection of Wi-Fi data on street cars. Companies should be policed government; however, the specific government body assigned to policing company security policies should be experts in that country’s privacy laws. It would not be appropriate for (examples) the prime minister or president to govern companies because they would want to keep information available for political decision-making. Private information should only be used for severe situations like murders or missing people, not political campaign strategies.

  22. Sunny P.

    Google! its just amazing how they are running as a organization. The things they do they way they do it and the way they make there users feel comfortable is just very well structured and good. I think in a public view they handle the privacy concern greatly because up today no big issues have been made about it and no one has gotten in any sort of confusion or information being released. Further, it does not change the state of me wanting to use the product because i find its a great thing to keep search history for a year may be easier to access what the end user wants and also it will get the bad guys of the streets trying to research how to do bad things. lol Finally, i think the government should have a specific rule as to how much information should be held from a person and how long just the way google is doing .

  23. Somaya E

    Reading over others comments, its apparent that the majority of people have a positive outlook on google. Especially after watching the video from class, I feel that google is company that is run by good morals, and even though they had a breach of security I will still use google just as regularly as I would before this happened. I think that they were unaware of the information they were capturing and they did the right thing by admitting to their mistake and fixing it. Everyone using the internet should have a general rule that nothing posted on the web is a secret and should therefore be careful what they share. There are so many other ways for information to get stolen, through hackers, cookies, and viruses, that an accidental capture of information from google seems to be a small thing to worry about.

  24. Amy

    I think that google handled this breach correctly as well, privacy has become a huge issue over the last few years and people should know by now that what you do on the internet leaves a trail. Google has admitted that they have to keep all information for 18 months. Business also need to make sure that those within their organization are using the internet properly, by policing this they can avoid information of their organization being leaked onto the internet. Google has to keep this information to keep a positive image, they can help, when served with the proper authoritative papers, police get evidence that will help in an investigation. For their business, keeping this information would also help them examine what their customers want from google, which would help them develope new technologies to sustain themselves in the ever-changing world. At least they told us they keep some of our information, many business wouldn’t.

  25. Kace Warner

    I can understand how people are unhappy with how google keeps information about who ever uses their site for a year. I feel that it is an invasion of privacy, however I dont really care, although I can see how some other people might care. I dont agree how in order to get peoples information out of googles hands, they have to have a well written up subpoena from the courts, ordering google to rid there computers of that clients information, I think if google is smart, and to help keep consumers happy, that if requested they should rid there computers of that persons information. Although, there is a an invasion of privacy, I will still continue to use google products, because they are obviously one of the best in the business, and im not to worried about, them having information about me, because I cant see them doing much with it. Im not really sure who should be in charge of policing companies to make sure that privacy is in check, maybe the local government in that country. I do think that the media does a good job of keeping these companies in check, by doing news stories, and exposing this information to the public.

  26. Joana H.

    Well, this is a really interesting case to comment about, although not very surprising, since sincerely I never trust the Internet so much, and all the steps taken to make it more secure are not sufficient, also because in almost every web browser, when you are logging in into your email account, there’s always a pop up asking you to save the password or something like that (which for sure somebody is collecting, since it’s providing the service!). Or should we talk about Facebook, and how the information in there is never being cancelled although you eliminate your account? Now, having said that, I still continue to use Gmail and Facebook because, anyway, it’s a system in which I’m in, and nowadays it has become a bit impossible to do without, without mentioning that Gmail is really efficient compared to other types of email accounts. Moreover, since the problem involves, according to me, almost every web-based operation, the only way to avoid these “mishaps” would be not to use the Internet at all!
    Now the way Google representatives treated the flop is not maybe the most appropriate, also because not every country involved had the same treatment (all the data cancelled). Moreover, this was maybe an accident, due to the Wi-Fi records done by the Street view service, but in the video Google’s CEO, E. Schmidt, overtly admits that they have to keep the information for 1 year and a half or so, due to security reasons and rules set by the European Commission. Therefore, it’s not really possible to promise that they won’t record personal information anymore.
    I think the best left to be done (to web users) is just trying to be as careful as possible with type of data we display and to think properly at the consequences.

  27. Kara Hurkens

    I am actually impressed with Google’s response. It takes a company a lot of guts to admit that they have done wrong. I really enjoyed the video that explains they only keep the data for one year and they get rid of it after that amount of time. I like that idea that if Google gets a court order to release the information about a crime or the data that a criminal has searched they can give it to the court and it can be used as evidence. If I had a friend or family member that had a crime committed against them and I knew that the person who had committed the crime had probably used Google to retrieve some information, I would expect Google to give the court that information. Maybe this is one way to put more criminals where they need to be!

  28. Marlo M.

    I wish I could say that Google’s breach of security would change my opinion of them and how I use their services, unfortunately that is just not true. I love Google and everything offer. I’ve used other search engines, interactive maps, image providers and online book readers and nothing/ nobody does it better than Google. It’s unfortunate that the breach happened but this type of thing happens every day and it is just a known fact that what one puts on the internet or enters into a site can be found out or saved or investigated by someone else. I think the way that Google handled this problem was great and that they informed the public in the best way possible. However, I find it very interesting that some countries are choosing to not let the collected data to be deleted. If I was a citizen of one of these countries or states, I would be more suspicious of the government than of Google.

  29. Travis VH

    Even though google has admitted to obtaining information about consumers and invading privacy of people that use their product it has not influenced my decision to use google products. I will continue to use google search engine because it works very well and it is very easy to use. If google keeps my search histories it won’t really matter to me because it may help google create better search results. When google knows what users are looking for and how people use the google search engine they may be able to create a system that is more user friendly and more centralized to consumers needs.

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