It now appears that if you are a technical neofite, Google has the legal responsibility to teach you how to properly configure your home router.
This all stems from an incident in which the famous “Google Car” (of which there are several) which drives around and takes pictures of your streets for the street view of Google Maps apparently was fitted with a device to also sniff out unprotected WiFi networks. Google claims that the decision to do this was made by engineer acting completely on his own. Nevertheless, it happened and if your home or church WiFi network is unprotected AND your street is mapped, chances are Google knows about your network.
Google apparently settled out of court, but according to an article in the New York Times:
The new settlement, which requires Google to set up a privacy program within six months, is more specific. Among its requirements, Google must hold an annual privacy week event for employees. It also must make privacy certification programs available to select employees, provide refresher training for its lawyers overseeing new products and train its employees who deal with privacy matters.
Several provisions involve outreach. Google must create a video for YouTube explaining how people can easily encrypt their data on their wireless networks and run a daily online ad promoting it for two years. It must run educational ads in the biggest newspapers in the 38 participating states, which besides Connecticut also include New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Ohio and Texas.
Hard to believe that Google would be able to cram any more activities into that festive holiday season that we all know and cherish: “Privacy Week”. But, it looks like they will now be legally required to do so. I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of thing that drives me nuts and makes me glad to be out of the “corporate” world. And, really, is it Google’s fault that people don’t know enough to protect their networks? I think not.
On the other hand, what was the guy who decided to sniff out unprotected WiFi networks thinking? What possible value would that have to Google? For a punishment, he should be made to sit in the corner and wear a tall, pointy hat (calling it a dunce cap is probably politically incorrect).
I know that I am mostly talking to tech people here who already know this, but just in case, the lesson here:
You should have your main wireless network protected with at the very least, WPA security.
If you have a really old router, it may only have WEP security and if that is the case, go spend $30 and get a new router with WPA. WEP is really just a little better than nothing. Or, you can just wait for the Google Movie (just kidding … do it now)!
I plan to do an article in the near future regarding security of your network in a church setting. This would also be applicable to a home network. Stay tuned!