In response to the data protection authority (DPA) in Hamburg, Germany authorities wanted to check the Wifi data Google collected with their Street View cars, Google say “they’ve re-examined and discovered that they were actually not just collecting WiFi network names and MAC addresses, but also "information sent over the network, called payload data, but Google doesn’t collect or store payload data. In addition, we didn’t collect information traveling over secure, password-protected WiFi networks". Google says this happened by mistake; a “piece of code” written in 2006 allegedly made live into the software in 2007, without any intent of project leaders of using payload data. Google now wants to delete the data asap, and “grounded their Street View cars collecting WiFi network data”.
Google adds, “This incident highlights just how publicly accessible open, non-password-protected WiFi networks are today.” Starting next week, Google Search will've a SSL-encrypted version at https://www.google.com. Google will become first important search engine that offers this option.
San Francisco Chronicle says that "about 600 gigabytes of data was taken off of the Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries" and that "Google has been vacuuming up fragments of people's online activities broadcast over public Wi-Fi networks for the past four years".