What does Google’s Street View know about you?

There is a lot of attention on Google right now due to the fact that Google had cars driving around the world, collecting photographic data so that it could add this information to its Google Maps database. This means they can most likely now publish what the front of your house looks like on a given day, without your consent.

To try it yourself, go to Google maps , look up your address, and then drag the yellow man on the map to your house. You should now see what your house looks like. By doing this, you’ve also now informed Google that — this is likely your house, attached to your IP address (uniquely identifying information about your internet connection).

The most popular part of this story is that they were sniffing wireless payloads while driving around the entire planet gathering this video data. What this means, is whatever you happened to be doing on the internet at the moment they drove by, Google now has that information. What could this actually mean? If your computer happened to be checking your email in the background while the Google car drove by your house, they likely now have your username and password for your email, as well as any emails your computer was retrieving at this time.

One of our major concerns also worth mentioning is that as a result of their packet sniffing Google now have a global database of SSIDs attached to MAC addresses. For the non techies reading this, the SSID is the identifier of your wireless network, whatever name you gave it “Ed’s house” for example, not a big deal, easily modified. MAC addresses on the other hand are unique, the addresses are assigned by the product manufacturer and identify the product you are using to access the internet. This is not easy to change for the average person.

Google now possesses a database of the unique identifiers of [how many?] computers around the world? Every law enforcement and intelligence agency’s wet dream. What does this mean to you? If myself as a techie spoofs (fakes) my MAC address to look like your unique MAC address, and I hack NASA, they could look in this database and see if they found that MAC address while driving around. If they find the MAC in their database, they know exactly where that computer was, at least at the time they drove by. What about the next time a whistle blower posts a video showing law agency abuse on public citizens? Is that event enough of an incentive for law agencies to seek out this information? This is an immense amount of information for them to have!

What is Google’s response to the media attention? It was an accident. They didn’t mean to packet sniff the entire world via the thousands of vehicles that drove millions of streets around the world.

A few steps you might want to take:

* Change the SSID in your wireless access point (AP)
* Learn how to spoof your MAC address on whatever operating system you use
* File a complaint with the appropriate body; in Canada this would be the appropriate privacy commissioner. As of writing this, I would suggest the federal privacy commissioner as she is working this issue currently.