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Google has snooped on WiFi traffic just like the NSA has. Last September, an appeals court ruled that this snooping could be in violation of the Wiretap Act. Now Google is looking to the Supreme Court to decide the issue. Meantime, users on unencrypted WiFi are continually vulnerable to WiFi sniffing. A US VPN can encrypt their traffic to preserve privacy and data security.
Google Street View Powered by WiFi Sniffing
Google WiFi traffic sniffing is considered the second largest internet wiretapping program in the US. It is second only to the wiretapping programs of the NSA. Google launched this grand WiFi sniffing program to support Google Street View. They outfitted a squadron of cars with hardware designed for snooping on unencrypted WiFi. The hardware recorded router names and MAC addresses in communities all around the US. The program was intended to give them the data they needed to make their geolocation services better. But between 2008 and 2010, when the program was running, the hardware recorded other data as well.
This kind of unauthorized sniffing and recording of traffic was found by privacy advocates to be a violation of citizens’ rights. It went to court last year, and the decision was appealed. Last September, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the earlier decision that the activities were likely a violation the Wiretap Act. Google’s legal department did not review the WiFi sniffing project. Its designer requested the review, but the squadron was deployed anyway. When the project was discovered, Google gave an apology. They also said they never used the data, but still had it. They said they could delete the data, but for privacy advocates the offer came too late.
Technically, the Wiretap Act says that if a stream of electronic communication is openly available, it is not illegal to listen to it. Google says that its unencrypted WiFi sniffing is therefore perfectly legal. Privacy advocates disagree because purposefully listening in is still snooping. It is therefore a violation of privacy. They recommend the use of a secure US VPN like ExpressVPN to guard against WiFi sniffing. US VPNs encrypt user traffic so that it is unreadable even when it passes over unencrypted WiFi. Internet users are not always in control of the security of the WiFi networks that they connect to. US VPNs give them that control, at least over their own data in the traffic stream. And US VPNs will not take up a lot of their bandwidth. US VPNs like ExpressVPN have several US servers to cater to users across the country.
There is also going to be a bigger problem if the US Supreme Court agrees, privacy experts say. A ruling on the legality of WiFi sniffing will create legal precedent for other companies to do the same. And cyber criminals will be encouraged to increase their efforts to snoop on WiFi connections t steal data. If this happens, Internet users will have to use US VPNs to protect themselves. Millions of people take advantage of WiFi to stay connected. They will become legal targets of identity theft, account hijacking, credit card theft, and a dozen other types of data theft. Only secure US VPNs will stand in the way of legalized unencrypted WiFi traffic sniffing.