Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Mistakenly" grabbing data?

A German agency is in the process of conducting an investigation of the privacy practices of Google. In the context of the investigation, the governmental agency asked Google about its Wi-Fi data storing practices. Long story short, what came out is that when Google sends vans around the world to map streets and locations, it was also “mistakenly” grabbing website traffic and usage from users that was available through unprotected Wi-Fi connections.

Far be it from me to question Google, but its structured technology grabbed the usage data mistakenly? Ouch, that is one major engineering glitch. The Wall Street Journal article covering the story quotes Google on the mistake—“ It’s now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data . . . We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake.”

Well, I am a big fan of learning lessons and this one gives American business a black eye in Europe well beyond Google. Information flows. Information stores. Information transmits. I like Google, don’t get me wrong, but when in Rome do as the Romans do. And when doing business in Europe or anywhere for that matter, respect their laws about information because information matters.