Google’s Street View car’s do more than just take pictures{1}

by David L
Google’s Street View cars not only have been taking pictures of streets, avenues, and highways, they have been taking gathering up data on neighborhood Wi-Fi data as well. In the article “Google’s Wi-Fi Spying: What were they thinking?”, author Jeff Burtolucci explains that Google’s “experimental Wi-Fi project” (Burtolucci, 2010) has been collecting wireless network information along with taking pictures of public roads for Google Maps Street View. The information collected ranges from router/modem’s physical MAC address, to information transmitted over unprotected networks. The author praises Google for admitting their activity instead of hiding and avoiding it, and ends by telling his readers that this is a warning to those who do not use wireless encryption to start protecting their wireless networks from neighborhood Wi-Fi snoops.

This relates to our database course because, Google has not only been gathering data to fill it’s Street View database, but has also been gathering local wireless network information simultaneously. These two data categories can be combined to map out wireless networks to corresponding houses, apartments, and businesses. If this data was published to the public, black hats could possibly use this information to hone onto specific household networks for malicious information gathering of private information.

Wardriving, or gathering Wi-Fi network information from a moving car is currently legal, but connecting to private unsecured wireless networks without the owners permission is illegal (Duntemann, 2003). Wardriving is relatively easy, all you need is a laptop or mobile device with Wi-Fi, software, and a vehicle. I believe the problematic issue with wardriving is the choice to connect to a neighbor’s or someone else’s unsecured wireless network without their permission. The line between legal and illegal actions resides on a “Connect” button.


Bertolucci, J. (2010, May 15). Google’s wi-fi spying: What were they thinking?. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from

Duntemann, J. (2003, April 26). Jeff duntemann’s wardriving faq. Retrieved April 15, 2o12, from