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Google's Brin on Wi-Fi spying: 'We screwed up'

Embarrassing revelations that Google Street View cars spied on unsecured wireless networks revealed a huge mistake, the Google co-founder says.

Google Sergey Brin
Google co-founder Sergey Brin admitted Google "screwed up" in allowing its Street View cars to spy on unsecured wireless networks.
Tom Krazit/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Google co-founder Sergey Brin didn't mince words in addressing one of the worst privacy-related gaffes his company has ever committed.

"In short, let me just say it: we screwed up," Brin said in response to a question on Wednesday here at the Google I/O conference about the company's disclosure last week that it had been collecting personal Internet usage data through its Google Street View program. "I'm not going to make any excuses about it."

Google is facing a litany of complaints and possible government actions against its Street View program, following Friday's announcement. The data collection was inadvertent, and the actual data itself was very spotty, Google said, but privacy advocates looking for a reason to slam Google got a fastball down the middle of the plate with the revelation.

Brin addressed criticism that Google's famously laid-back culture isn't designed to prevent problems such as the current one. "First, we do have a lot of internal controls in place, but obviously, they didn't prevent this error from occurring. We are putting more internal controls in place," Brin said.

"Trust is very important to us, Brin said. "We're going to do everything we can to preserve that trust."