Last updated at 10:23 PM on 29th May 2010
Google is facing renewed privacy concerns after it secretly mapped every single wireless internet connection in Britain – including those in millions of homes – to help it sell advertising and other services.
The move was part of the search engine’s controversial Street View project, which drew widespread criticism after it photographed people’s houses and published the images on the internet.
Now it has been revealed that the firm had failed to disclose that it was simultaneously building a massive database of individual home wi-fi networks across the UK and in other countries.
As Google’s distinctive fleet of cars, fitted with roof-mounted cameras, cruised Britain’s streets over the past three years photographing every house and public building, antennae inside were also pinpointing the wi-fi hotspots.
There were earlier reports that Google had admitted accidentally collecting some emails from ‘open’ wireless networks. But The Mail on Sunday today reveals how – and why – the company has collected details of all wi-fis, even those protected by security.
Last night the firm, one of the world’s most powerful companies and worth £28billion, admitted that it should have been ‘more transparent’ about the full extent of the project and pledged to stop mapping any new personal wireless networks in future.
But it said it would not delete the information it had already obtained from the Street View project which now covers almost every road in Britain.
Personal wireless equipment – known as a router – allows people to access the internet from anywhere in their homes without plugging laptops and other devices into a telephone point.