Google, spying? Accused by the feds?
OK. Wired.com has their panties in a twist about data collected by specially equipped “Street View” vehicles that Google fielded to collect imagery around towns, cities, and countryside. Well, they wanted to present good imagery for their Google Earth and other products.
What Google appears to have done is stick an antennae on the car, and record whatever they picked up. Unsecured computers and networks, full of data, emails, passwords? Yep.
It occurs to me that this is precisely what the feds have been doing for the last eleven years under the Patriot Act. Only the Feds have set out to collect on targeted individuals, keeping their data secret, and keeping it forever, just in case it can be used in the future.
Sounds exactly like what Google did. Only Google wasn’t targeting anyone. Just randomly sampling what was unsecured, and broadcasted across the landscape as radio signals.
I could make the case that Google, unlike the “secret no-fly list” Feds, were entitled to record and save for whatever purpose, anything they received as radio signals. It used to be called the “fair use” doctrine. This is what allowed millions of Dr. Demento fans to record the good doctor weekly, for years. And listen to radio programs, for that matter.
Now, Google picked up signals from private sources, not professional, licensed organizations regulated and taxed as broadcasting operations. But the FCC has made provisions for ad hoc transmissions (i.e., noise or unintended broadcasts) and micro-power broadcasting.
And I really don’t like the thought of the Feds keeping data they captured secretly, just in case they find a use, someday. Google is pretty low on my “evil” meter, for this one.
I wonder if Google has considered claiming the data collection was under contract to the Feds, as part of routine Patriot Act surveillance of random neighborhoods? How would the Feds prove their secret program that refuses efforts of anyone to verify they obey the law, did not in fact engage with Google to collect stuff?