Google has been investigated on charges of unlawfully collecting data from individuals via their Wifi networks, and the UK ICO or Information Commissioner’s Office has found that the Internet giant has not collected any information that would prove detrimental to the individuals concerned. Google initiall offered an unreserved apology and has continued to protest its innocence saying that the whole affair was a mistake. To their credit they also worked quickly to prevent the further collection of data and the segregation of collected data once they knew the breach had occurred.
They are, however, still being investigated in other countries around Europe as well as in Australia. They also continue to deny any use of payload data. It does seem fairly unlikely that a company of the size and stature of Google resorts to sending out Google Street cars with the ultimate goal of collecting personal data especially when many Internet users freely offer them email addresses and other personal breadcrumbs.
However, while Google does not wish to collect such data, advertising billboards may well soon be. We already have digital advertising boards and Japanese company NEC has created billboards that can recognise the age and gender of a person walking by so as to potentially serve them relevant and more targeted ads. However, IBM is working on a technology that will take us one step even closer to the Minority Report billboards that are highly specific to the user and even use the individual’s name.
One way in which the technology could work would be through the use of technology similar to that employed in Oyster travel cards. The billboard would be able to collect some personal data from the card and then offer an ad that is relevant to that individual.
Do you want to hear your name on digital adverts in tube stations?
Did Google plan the whole Street Maps service just to collect Gmail addresses?
Is it all a conspiracy?