Google's being slapped with a class-action lawsuit in a Portland, Ore., federal court for unlawfully collecting data off of unsecured Wi-Fi networks. The company came clean recently that its Google Street View vehicles had collected five-second snippets of Wi-Fi payload data while gathering mapping data around the globe.
Rather than wasting time and money on a lawsuit that will likely end in Google's favor, individuals and organizations wringing their hands and fretting over privacy should be taking two steps. First, thank Google for bringing to exposure the fact that so much data is floating around out there on unsecured Wi-Fi networks, ripe for the plucking.
[ Also on InfoWorld: A consumer group has asked the FTC to investigate Google's Wi-Fi data collection practices | Learn how to secure your systems with Roger Grimes' Security Adviser blog and Security Central newsletter, both from InfoWorld. ]
OK, perhaps thanking Google would be a bit much -- but at least thank your lucky stars. Your data could have been swiped by an individual or organization that was going to secretly use the data maliciously, instead of announcing the deed and deleting the data.
Three letters: V-P-N
That leads to the second, more important step: If you're worried about your personal data or your company's data being swiped, do something to actually address the problem.
Doing something, by the way, means making sure your own home or company Wi-Fi networks are secure. It also means making sure that you and your employees aren't broadcasting private information while using the local coffee shop's unsecured wireless network. Make sure they're using a VPN, for example. We're talking about pretty basic wireless security.
Not that private to begin with
Ironically, both of the plaintiffs admit in the complaint that their home wireless networks are not password-protected. In fact, plaintiff Van Valin -- who works in the high-tech field, per the complaint -- does much of her work from home, and "a significant amount" of the wireless data on her network is "subject to her employer's non-disclosure and security regulations."
One can't imagine that Valin's employer will be particularly keen to learn that her network isn't secure, by the way. Or perhaps the company's security regulations pre-date Wi-Fi?
This article, "Don't sue Google. Thank Google -- and secure your data," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.