Posts Tagged ‘payload data’

Tech Industry Hall of Shame – the Dumbest Moments in Tech History

May 2nd, 2012 05:00 admin View Comments

We are surrounded by failure in the tech world, and some of those failures are big enough to sit in our memories for years. After the latest news from Google, we were reminded of many other shameful moments in tech. We put together our own RWW Hall of Shame to see if we could learn any lessons from these sordid tales of woe.

Google’s Street View brought the concept of “payload data” to the forefront: While those nifty cars with cameras were cruising our communities, Google was purposely collecting data transmitted over open Wi-Fi networks to which it could connect. First Google said it wasn’t intentionally doing this, then the word leaked out that many project teams within Google had access to this information. Google should have come clean on its intentions, and the executive who authorized the project should come out of the Googleplex and take responsibility for being “evil.”

But Google is hardly alone in acting shamefully. Consider:

  • Amazon should be chastised for patenting one-click shopping. Leave it to Amazon to have gotten one of the most annoying software patents of all time: the ability to purchase something with a single click online. Lately, it has been very unresponsive to its customers and has suffered lengthy outages with its Web services. The company needs to swallow a huge antihubris pill and come out with better support mechanisms if it wants to keep its customers.
  • Last year, Netflix tried to split itself into two companies, one for streaming and one focused on its legacy DVD rental business. The split didn’t go well, and as a result, Netflix lost at least 10 percent of its customers, with many of them going to competitors. Certainly, trying to charge more for the same service it had previously offered was bad news, no matter how small the increment.
  • Lexmark was one of the first laser-printer companies that forced customers to use its toner cartridges. It did this via adding special ID chips to its toner cartridges and then having its printers check for the ID, so you needed to buy Lexmark cartridges as replacements. Apart from starting an entire cottage industry focused on defeating this procedure, requiring your customers to act a specific way is generally a really bad idea.
  • Sony deserves mention for installing malware on its music CDs in the name of copy protection. Back in 2005, Sony made news with its special rights management software from a company called First 4 Internet. The software came with the music CD from the Van Zants called Get Right with the Man (ironic title completely unintentional). The software is used to play the music files from the CD and monitor how the PC uses the music, ostensibly to prevent digital copying and ripping the music. Sadly, the software did more than that, including burrowing deep into your Windows OS and purposely disguising itself and hiding its executable files from plain sight. Worse yet, the software stole performance from your computer in doing its bidding. That got a lot of attention, and Sony was forced to offer a removal tool. Now the issue is moot, as how many of us really buy CDs anymore?
  • Sears provided its own malware on Sony wasn’t the only big company that installed spyware on your PC. You would think that others had learned from its mistakes, but in 2008, Sears decided to try it on its own with a special website that pretended to be a portal for its resellers. Oops! There is such a thing as being too close a partner. Again, denials were followed by fixes.
  • Dell shipped a laptop that brought fresh meaning to the term “explosive new release.” Back in 1993, Dell made news with its SL320i laptop, which had an exploding battery. Initially the company denied it, then worked hard to offer replacements. Since then, Dell has gotten its customer-service listening act together and today is an exemplary social-media operation.
  • Miniscribe developed the concept of “brick drives.” In late 1989, the well-known Longmont, Colorado, disk-drive maker found its short-term financial situation in bad shape and thought it had the solution: Ship bricks instead of disk drives that customers had ordered, use the payments to stabilize its situation, then chalk it all up to a packaging error and send out the real drives. We’ll never know if it would have worked, because the company laid off a number of employees who had been complicit in the shipments – and who then turned around and outed the whole scheme. (As if the customers wouldn’t have noticed that their drive installs were more difficult than usual.) At least Miniscribe paid for its sins with a very quick bankruptcy.

Some lessons learned from these events: Denial is not a river in Egypt. Come clean with the facts and offer a fix ASAP. Also, make good on any customer slight. In an era when customers can tweet and post on social media, you want to work toward keeping the customer happy, and the cost will be small. Finally, steer clear of putting any software on someone’s PC without his or her knowledge. Anything else is just spyware.

Feel free to suggest some of your own egregious and shameful tech acts from the past.

Source: Tech Industry Hall of Shame – the Dumbest Moments in Tech History

Report Finds Google Supervisors Knew About Wi-Fi Data Harvesting

April 29th, 2012 04:15 admin View Comments


bonch writes “According to the FCC report, Google’s collection of Street View data was not the unauthorized act of a rogue engineer, as Google had portrayed it, but an authorized program known to supervisors and at least seven other engineers. The original proposal contradicts Google’s claim that there was no intent to gather payload data: ‘We are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they were doing.’”

Source: Report Finds Google Supervisors Knew About Wi-Fi Data Harvesting

Google Releases FCC Report On Street View Probe

April 28th, 2012 04:20 admin View Comments


An anonymous reader writes with news that Google has released the full report of the FCC investigation into the incident in which its Street View cars collected personal data while mapping Wi-Fi networks. They are putting responsibility for the data gathering on a ‘rogue engineer’ who wrote the code for it without direction from management. “Those working on Street View told the FCC they had no knowledge that the payload data was being collected. Managers of the Street View program said they did not read the October 2006 document [written by the engineer that detailed his work]. A different engineer remembered receiving the document but did not recall any reference to the collection of payload data. An engineer who worked closely with the engineer in question on the project in 2007, reviewing all of the codes line by line for bugs, says he did not notice that the software was designed to capture payload data. A senior manager said he preapproved the document before it was written.”

Source: Google Releases FCC Report On Street View Probe

Judge OKs Wiretap Lawsuit Over Google Wi-Fi Sniffing

July 1st, 2011 07:57 admin View Comments


An anonymous reader writes “Last year Google found itself in hot water after admitting to accidentally collecting payload data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Their admission led to a number of investigations and complaints around the globe, and a U.S. District Court Judge has now denied Google’s motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit which alleges the search giant violated federal wiretapping laws. ‘Judge James Ware drew a distinction in yesterday’s ruling between merely accessing an open WiFi network and actually sniffing the individual packets on that network. In the first case, one is only jumping onto a network to send and receives one own communications; in the second case, one is looking into someone else’s communications, and doing so in a way that requires nontrivial technical ability or software.’”

Source: Judge OKs Wiretap Lawsuit Over Google Wi-Fi Sniffing

FCC Investigating Google Street View Wi-Fi Data Collection

November 11th, 2010 11:41 admin View Comments

adeelarshad82 writes “The Federal Communications Commission is looking into whether Google’s Street View Wi-Fi data collection violated the Communications Act. At issue is a May admission from Google that equipment attached to its Street View cars collected data that was traveling over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, known as payload data. At first Google said it did not know if that data included personally identifiable information, but the company admitted last month that it did include entire e-mail addresses, URLs, and passwords. Google has pledged to work with the FCC.”

Source: FCC Investigating Google Street View Wi-Fi Data Collection

Google Admits To Collecting Emails and Passwords

October 22nd, 2010 10:35 admin View Comments

wiredmikey writes “Alan Eustace, Google’s Senior VP of Engineering & Research, just put up an interesting blog post on how Google will be creating stronger privacy controls. Right at the end is an interesting admission: that after Streetview WiFi Payload data was analyzed by regulators, their investigations revealed that some incredibly private information was harvested in some cases. Eustace noted that ‘It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords.’”

Source: Google Admits To Collecting Emails and Passwords

Google Found Guilty of Australian Privacy Breach

July 9th, 2010 07:06 admin View Comments

schliz writes “The Australian Privacy Commissioner has found Google guilty of breaching the country’s Privacy Act when it collected unsecured WiFi payload data with its Street View vehicles. While the Commissioner could not penalize the company, Google agreed to publish an apology on its Australian blog, and work more closely with her during the next three years. Globally, Google is said to have collected some 600 GB of data transmitted over public WiFi networks. In May, the company put its high-definition Australian Street View plans on hold to audit its processes.”

Source: Google Found Guilty of Australian Privacy Breach

States Launch Joint Probe of Google Wi-Fi Snooping

June 21st, 2010 06:32 admin View Comments

CWmike writes “As many as 30 states could join an investigation into Google’s collection of personal information from unprotected wireless networks, Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal announced today. Google’s response was similar to what it said earlier this month: ‘It was a mistake for us to include code in our software that collected payload data, but we believe we didn’t break any US laws. We’re working with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns.’ Google already faces investigations by privacy authorities in several European countries, including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. In the US, Google faces multiple civil lawsuits, and the company has been asked for more information from several congressmen as a preliminary step to a legislative hearing. Google has asked that the lawsuits be consolidated and moved to a California federal court’s jurisdiction.”

Source: States Launch Joint Probe of Google Wi-Fi Snooping

Google Releases Wi-Fi Sniffing Audit

June 11th, 2010 06:33 admin View Comments

adeelarshad82 writes “In the wake of the controversy surrounding its Street View data collection processes, Google has published an independent audit of its practices, prompting a London-based privacy group to accuse Google of a ‘criminal act.’ The report provided some more in-depth, technical details (PDF) about what Google has already admitted to doing: storing wireless data packet information that was collected over unencrypted networks. According to the report, Street View cars collect data sent over wireless networks, and associate this information with data from a GPS unit in the vehicles. The technology used, known as gslite, then parses and stores certain identifying information about these wireless networks to a hard drive. That information includes the MAC address and the SSID amongst other things like e-mails addresses and browser history.”
Google also sent a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders acknowledging their mistake and claiming they have not “conducted an analysis of the payload data in a way that allows us to know exactly what was collected.”

Source: Google Releases Wi-Fi Sniffing Audit

Google Audits Street View Data Systems

May 25th, 2010 05:40 admin View Comments

schliz writes “Google’s plans to upgrade to high-definition Street View in Australia are on hold until it completes a rigorous internal audit of the processes, it announced today. The company is currently being investigated by international regulators about possible privacy breeches when it became known that its street view vehicles were capturing not only publicly available SSIDs and MAC addresses, but also samples of payload data transmitted over these networks.”

Source: Google Audits Street View Data Systems