Google admitted yesterday that its creepy Street View vans have been collecting more than pictures of empty storefronts and people digging for gold. In addition, Street View vehicles have spent the past three years downloading payload data from non–password protected Wi-Fi networks. That means if you leave your Wi-Fi network unsecured or steal someone else's unsecured wireless signal, Google may now be the proud owner of your e-mails, text, photos, and records of websites you've visited.
"Quite simply, it was a mistake," Alan Eustace, senior vice-president, engineering and research writes on the official Google blog. Eustace also attempts to explain that even though Street View vehicles were collecting this payload data, chances are slim that they got their hands on anything you should worry about.
However, we will typically have collected only fragments of payload data because: our cars are on the move; someone would need to be using the network as a car passed by; and our in-car WiFi equipment automatically changes channels roughly five times a second. In addition, we did not collect information traveling over secure, password-protected WiFi networks.
Also, lest you worry that Google has been building new brain-control programs based on your personal information, Eustace writes "we never used that data in any Google products."