CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - If you've used Google maps, you've seen the "street view" option. Simply map out a location and it allows you to zoom right in to see pictures of specific houses on a street.
Unfortunately, Google made a mistake in the way it collected that information and it could have violated your privacy.
A four-year-long software glitch while Google was collecting information about wireless networks inadvertently allowed the company to bring in pictures of some e-mails and web pages viewed, if private wireless networks were not password protected.
WBTV Cyber Expert Theresa Payton offers some advice if you think your information might be in Google's hands now.
If you feel your information may have been compromised, you can take 4 steps:
1. You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
2. You can read what Google has to say about the data they collected and their commitment to their customers that they will not compromise them
3. You can contact "InsideGoogle.com" - they are the Consumer Watchdog Group that is tracking Google
4. Talk to legal counsel about whether or not you should join the class action suit or file one of your own
Should I Use Free Wireless?
Tips to Safer Working and Playing Online
There you are, it is a gorgeous day and you take the laptop outside to the local cafe or coffee shop to work or play online. Or, maybe you are frantically trying to get a little work done while sitting in the hotel lobby or airport. You notice a free wireless network pops up and you think you have hit the jackpot. You select the network, it does not ask for a password, the web browser loads and you begin to enjoy your time working or playing on the Internet. But is this a wise thing to do?
Here are a few helpful tips to help you analyze if you should hop on that free wireless connection – Stop-Look-Listen
1. Stop: Think first about what transactions you may be conducting online. Would you shout out your bank account number for all to hear? Then you may not want to do online banking while on a free wireless network. If you do not know the security of the network, when you type in your account number, you may be shouting it out for cybercriminals to hear.
2. Look: When the network popped up, did it prompt you to type in a pass code or password to log in? If so, it is very likely you are on a secure network. Look next to the network name for a padlock icon. This indicates that the owner only lets people on the wireless network that know the pass code.
3. Listen: Heed the software update messages from Microsoft or Apple that prompt you to install the latest version of your operating system. This will help protect you.
Theresa recommends you save your very sensitive browsing and transactions when you can connect through a direct Internet connection or on a trusted wireless network.
If you must have the flexibility of conducting sensitive transactions anytime, anyplace, Theresa says you should consider purchasing a broadband card or a mobile wireless hub such as the new MiFi. If you would like to see the mobile card or MiFi in use, you can ask for a demonstration at your local cellular phone store. The broadband card allows you to connect your PC to the Internet using a secure connection. The MiFi allows you and four other PCs within 30 feet of the MiFi to connect using a unique password to the Internet via a secure connection. You can use MiFi almost as easily as a cell phone. It even works in a moving car.