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In an ironic twist of things Google seems to be taking a lead in the stalker side of things. Open Wi-Fi connections are notorious for being susceptible to all kinds of nuisances, including data theft, identity theft and hackers – and most recently Google! If the internet giant has been to your part of town for Google Maps then you best be weary of your open Wi-Fi, if you have one.

Google has been a busy spy waltzing through open wireless networks, picking up private data along the way. We’re all fond of Google Maps, so much so that most of us at one point or another have tried to find our roofs or our streets on Google Map. However, the cost of getting these things onto the map seems a little high with Google tapping into open Wi-Fi’s and taking not just house numbers but a plethora of private data. Tracking user data is not something that should be legal, but it seems that acting like a spy isn’t much of a problem for Google.

The legality of it all

In the U.S. the firm only got a small frown for bad behavior and was sent back home with a tiny $25,000 fine. The FCC feels that Google did nothing illegal, albeit it did something wrong. The shocking part is that the U.S. courts never tried to gain access to the data that Google has lifted from this activity. Emails, chats, browsing history and more was lifted from these connections.

France for instance, has levied  a fine worth $100, 000 Euros or $141,300 – the magnitude of the fine can gauged by the fact that it was the biggest fine that the France CNIL has ever placed upon a firm.  Over 30 countries other than the U.S. are looking into following France’s example. And while Google may have avoided a meteor in FCC ruling, it still has to have a show down in class action suits against it; where there’s a probability it won’t be able to tip the scale in its own favor as easily.

This begs the question

Just where does one draw the line between what’s legal and illegal when spying on someone or tracking their activity. Google is essentially no different than the many spy software that are offering a chance to get a look at emails, pictures, chats, screen shots etc. to anyone willing to pay a price. Computer monitoring software has been around for a while and continues to be misused and manipulated by many, who can use the Google case as precedence to wiggle their way out of any legal liability.

Unsuspecting users can be easily targeted, which is clear because of Google’s actions. With the CISPA legislation on the horizon, if the FCC and the FTC continue to ignore the actions of larger firms it’s only a matter of time before a lawsuit against computer monitoring will result in success for the spy and not vice versa.

Nothing new here

The first we heard of Google people’s data was around 2010. When the problem was first discovered Google was all apologies, but when the FCC showed up to find out just what happened it shooed it off. The irony is that Google has been closely working with the FBI in the past to help find thieves and criminals, however, when Google itself is the one conducting the data theft it says time and resources are limited to reproduce the data that it lifted.

The company flat out refused to name employees who were part of the activity and failed to produce any emails associated with the investigation. Google is doing much the same thing any spyware does; only it seems to be better at it.

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Posted by Natalia David

Natalia David is an author of Computer monitoring software and keylogger technology. She provides tips, tricks and news about computer and internet security. You can also follow her on Twitter @NataliaDavid4 to get the latest tips about computer security.

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