Category Archives: street view

Disappearing streets, Hacking Google

So Google was given a bit of a tap on the wrist after the whole Street view debacle. It’s ended up seeming like the agencies in charge of investigating the search giant on the privacy charges have taken them at their word when they say “We’re sorry, we didn’t mean it.”

Taken a step further yet, it’s surfaced that while you can opt out of having your home, face or anything else blurred or removed, you don’t even technically need to have a stake in the location. If you search an address on Google Maps, use the street view option, on the bottom of the page there’s a tiny grey text link stating simply “Report a problem”. Now clicking this link, will open a new page for you, where in you can describe the problem you’ve encountered in a neat little form. It could be a privacy issue, an inappropriate picture or the ubiquitous “other”. Upon filling out the few fields of informations, selecting the image you have a “problem” with, Google sends you a confirmation email and that’s that. In a few days, the site disappears; interestingly enough, there’s no corroboration as to whether or not you have any claim on the image you report. Possibilities abound.

More from Google and privacy? Okay! Anyone remember Google Buzz? Wouldn’t surprise anyone really I think if there wasn’t much mention of it, it was rather short lived in the social media sector. When Google flipped the switch on Buzz, they made a life ending (for Buzz) mistake; they exposed peoples Gmail contact lists. It didn’t take them long to fix it, but in the instant it was discovered, it doomed the idea. And because we all have something to hide, a class action was brought against the company stating in essence that “..Buzz publicly exposed data, including users’ most frequent Gmail contacts, without enough user consent.”

The courts have reached a resolution in the matter, and in the end US based Gmail users get nothing. In their email to users Google stated: “The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users’ concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be. Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011.”

And to put a final twist on the Google of today, they want you to hack them! From their security blog posting “Today, we are announcing an experimental new vulnerability reward program that applies to Google web properties. We already enjoy working with an array of researchers to improve Google security, and some individuals who have provided high caliber reports are listed on our credits page. As well as enabling us to thank regular contributors in a new way, we hope our new program will attract new researchers and the types of reports that help make our users safer.”

As was evidenced by all of the closed testing they could muster (Buzz), nothing can substitute for opening up the gates to the world and saying “Break it if you can so we can fix it!” It’s all laid out in their post here, and who knows, if you’re good enough you may receive their top pay of $3,133.7.. those who know, know.

Google hits the Street – And About Being Social

Another one bites the dust? Google is rumored to picking up social media currency creator Jambool, makers of Social Gold. Social Gold is a secure payment method used in online games like Mafia Wars. Social Gold gives app developers the ability to build payments directly into their games and other applications.

It’s just another cog in the machine that Big G is speculated to be building, not to compete with Facebook however as we don’t need more of the same thing. Social websites retain interest and enjoy long term loyalty when interactivity can take a front seat to the experience. Just look to your nearest Facebook notices page for reference. Odds are, you have more than a few friends involved in Farmville, Mafia Wars and so on. Add in the ability to connect to your family and friends as you like, with interactivity that can possibly be shared, and you’ll have a good recipe for some long term memberships.

It keeps going and going..

The StreetView saga that is. Germany, US, Italy, Spain and a few others are still investigating just how much data the camera cars have captured. While the EU has acquited the giant of any blatant wrong doing.

This Tuesday, as I’m sure you’ve seen mentioned in the news, South Korea Police raided Google offices and siezed harddrives and computers related to the StreetView cars.

“We can confirm that the police have visited Google Korea in conjunction with their investigation around data collection by Street View cars. We will cooperate with the investigation and answer any questions they have,” said Lois Kim, a Google spokeswoman.

Korea’s National Police Agency said that Google collected and stored the information illegally. NPA stated that the company collected data from “unspecified users” and their unsecured wi-fi networks for about six months while the vehicles snapped photos for StreetView. All the drama and hooplah aside, it doesn’t mean that anything will happen. Google will probably not even face any charges.

In light of all of the free publicity, Google announced that it plans on introducing StreetView for 20 of the largest German cities by the end of the year. German authorities insisted that peoples faces, and license plates be blurred out, and the public can request to have their homes removed from the StreetView website. According to the Associated Press, these features are purely unique to Germany. A move no doubt, to dispel any fears about privacy.

Google has said time and again, that the collection of data was accidental, but it was not illegal.

Google – Street View in Germany

Google admitted they’ve made a mistake, they apologized, and worked with a few countries to handle and destroy the mistakenly corrected data. The biggest impasse however, is still with their collection of data in Germany.

Google was given a deadline for handing over a hard drive with the data collected, so that it could be analyzed and determined the severity of the charges; if any, are brought against Google. They even tried to stave off the deadline by using Germanys own laws against their demands, citing that to turn over the hard drive, would be breaking their laws. But, an agreement has been reached, and the data will be turned over for inspection.

Google plans to publish the results of an audit into the street view gathering practice, and made note that the erroneous code snippet which captured the data may have been a 20% time project by an employee. Their Street View code was orginally built while driving around the Stanford University campus checking for WiFi connections. Googles “20% time” block, which is basically free work time for their employees to work on projects of their own, will remain, and there are no current plans for an internal audit of current projects.

CEO Eric Schmidt said: “It would be a terrible thing to put a chilling effect on creativity”

If the code was accidentally left in, which was developed within the guidelines of the free work period for Googles employees, it may be a tiny enough loophole for the company to squeek through. I wonder how much 20% is worth these days..