Google Admits It Captured Emails, Passwords From WiFi Networks

Google on Friday acknowledged for the first time that its Street View cars collected far more than meaningless fragments of traffic from unsecured WiFi networks.

"In some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords," Alan Eustace, senior vice president for engineering and research, said in a blog post. "We are mortified by what happened," he continued, adding that Google recently made some changes that it believes "will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users."

Among other changes, Google promoted computer science expert Alma Whitten to director of privacy across engineering and product management. Whitten previously handled privacy on the engineering front. Google also said it would increase employee training and implement other internal privacy measures.

Eustace wrote that the full extent of the data collection only became clear after outside authorities inspected the material. "We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologize again for the fact that we collected it in the first place," he wrote.

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The company's mea culpa might not satisfy Congress, which is currently scrutinizing online privacy. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who also recently questioned Facebook regarding leakage of users' information to advertisers, said he was "deeply disturbed" by the news. "Consumers should never have to fear that their Wi-Fi could morph into 'Spy-Fi," he said in a statement.

Google also is facing a potential class-action lawsuits over the Street View WiFi collections.

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