Conor changes his mind

Conor Cahill has taken a look at the Gstumbler report.  His conclusion is:

Given this new information I would have to agree that Google has clearly stepped into the arena of doing something that could be detrimental to the user's privacy.

Conor explains that, “the information in the report is quite different than the information that had been published at the time I expressed my opinions on the events at hand.”

He argues:

  1. “We had been led to believe that Google had only captured data on open wireless networks (networks that broadcast their SSIDs and/or were unencrypted). The analysis of the software shows that to be incorrect — Google captured data on every network regardless of the state of openness. So no matter what the user did to try to protect their network, Google captured data that the underlying protocols required to be transmitted in the clear.
  2. “We had been led to believe that Google had only captured data from wireless access points (APs). Again the analysis shows that this was incorrect — Google captured data on any device for which it was able to capture the wireless traffic for (AP or user device). So portable devices that were currently transmitting as the Street View vehicle passed would have their data captured.”

Anyone who knows Conor knows he is a gentlemanly model of how people should behave towards each other in our industry.  I understand his position fully, and respect it.  He says:

[Kim] seems to have a particular fondness for the phrase “wrong,” “completely wrong,” and “wishful thinking” when referring to my comments on the topic.  In my defense, I will say that there was no “wishful thinking” going on in my mind. I was just examining the published information rather than jumping to conclusions — something that I will always advocate. In this case, after examining the published report, it does appear that those who jumped to conclusions happened to be closer to the mark, but I still think they were wrong to jump to those conclusions until the actual facts had been published.

I can't disagree that Google's public relations messages may well have been crafted to leave the impression that their wireless eavesdropping was only directed at network access points.  But if you read them extremely carefully you see they refrain from making any such claims. 

At any rate, Conor needs no defense and I accept his point.  People who took the view that Google couldn't possibly have been doing what I claimed were acting based on the messages the company conveyed.  Sadly, if people of Conor's undisputed technical sophistication are misled by this kind of public relations campaign, the crafting of the information might also be considered suspect.

[More of Conor's post here]


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Kim Cameron

Work on identity.