Is Google Reading Personal Emails?

Google has admitting to inadvertantly taking personal information transmitting over open WiFi networks.

By Ida Siegal
|  Wednesday, Jun 2, 2010  |  Updated 11:30 PM EDT
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Does Google Have Your Private Information?

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Does Google Have Your Private Information?

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Could Google be looking at your personal emails and text messages?  If you were transmitting on an open WiFi network it is possible. 

Google set off a firestorm of controversy when it admitted to inadvertently collecting all kinds of personal information in Germany while taking pictures for it's Street View feature.  Street View is the Google Maps feature that allows browsers to view a picture of the actual street on the map they're headed to.  The internet giant says while it's vans were driving around taking pictures of streets, they were also mistakenly collecting data floating around through open WiFi networks.

Councilman Dan Garodnick who represents Manhattan's East Side wants to know if Google did something similar here in New York.

"We know that Street View is a feature that they have here in New York and we want to know if they're capturing private personal data from New Yorkers," Said Garodnick.

New Yorkers happily using open WiFi in Madison Square Park want to know the same thing.

"I never thought that people could be collecting my information.  I'm not sure what they'd use it for,"  Said Jennifer Maala from the Upper West Side.

Garodnick sent a letter to Google's CEO demanding to know how many New Yorkers were affecting and what Google would do with that information. 

Google says what happened in Germany was a mistake.  They have handed the data over to an independent firm while the investigation continues.

"Even if it is innocent, I think that people have a right to know that it's possible - that they could be doing it - and what, if anything, they intend to do with that information,"  Said Nick De Sena while using his laptop in Madison Square Park.

There is no evidence Google gathered personal information in any other country.  But there is so much concern world wide, 30 other countries are now questioning the ubiquitous search engine and some have threatened lawsuits.

Lance Ulanoff, Editor In Chief at PCMAG.COM, warns even if Google's intentions were innocent, there are other people out there looking for open WiFi networks.  It's called sniffing and it's now always innocent.

"You have to lock down your network if you don't want people to sniff the information in there,"  Said Ulanoff. 

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