Google Denies Spy Drone Reports

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Google has vehemently denied reports that it is experimenting with spy drones or UAVs, typically used by special forces or the police

Google has described reports that it is experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as “factually inaccurate”, following claims by the boss of a German spy drone manufacturer in a magazine interview.

According to the Register and other media outlets, the chief executive of Microdrones GmbH, Sven Juerss, told German business magazine Wirtschaft Woche that his firm has supplied one drone to Google already, and that he has hopes of orders for “dozens” more in future.

“The UAVs are well suited to provide more timely recording of the map service Google Earth,” Juerss reportedly said.

Factually Inaccurate

The Register article said that the UAV would be used to augment the company’s controversial “Street View” picture database but, speaking to eWEEK Europe UK, this was vehemently denied by a Google spokeswoman, who claimed that any implication that Google was using this technology was simply wrong.

Google also denied that it purchased the UAV.

“Google is not testing or using this technology,” said Google in an emailed statement to eWEEK Europe UK. “This was a purchase by a Google executive with an interest in robotics for personal use.”

The Google spokeswoman said that the idea of using any UAV for its Street View service was absurd.

Unlikely Scenario

Indeed, it seems highly unlikely that Google would ever consider this option, considering the trouble the company got into over the WiSpy fiasco. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would need to provide authorisation for any organisation looking to operate the UAVs in UK airspace.

Google’s Street View cars only got back on the roads in the UK last week, following the “WiSpy” privacy controversy which saw the entire fleet grounded.

Google Street View Car
Google Street View Car

Google’s Street View cars, which collect street-level photos and 3D data, were grounded in May after admitting to inadvertently collected more than 600GB of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks around the world.

The incident provoked outrage from governments and privacy advocates at the time, and Google is subject to investigations by Scotland Yard, the US Federal Trade Commission and European regulators, although it is worth noting that the company has been cleared by the Information Commissioner’s Office after it examined the captured data.

But yesterday Google’s headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, was raided by police looking for data gathered from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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