Google Testing Out Free Wi-Fi Service

UPDATED Google is testing out a free wireless hotspot service in two locations, company officials acknowledged Tuesday. News of Google Wi-Fi spread following a new download called Google Secure Access that lets users connect to Google's VPN, or virtual private network, in order to keep their Internet connection secure from prying eyes when using Wi-Fi.

Google's wireless plans have been the center of much speculation over the past few months, with the company buying up fiber optic lines and expanding its portfolio with Google Talk and through the purchase of wireless start-up Android. However, Google itself has remained mum on its future plans.

Now, the company says it has begun a limited beta test of a Wi-Fi service near Google's Mountain View, California headquarters. Google spokesman Nate Tyler said the service is part of a "community outreach program." Tyler said the company would collect feedback from users and determine its next steps.

According to a frequently asked questions page, "Google Secure Access allows you to establish a more secure connection while using Google WiFi. By using Google Secure Access, your internet traffic will be encrypted, preventing others from viewing the information you transmit."

"The program can currently be downloaded at certain Google WiFi locations in the San Francisco Bay Area," the FAQ reads.

Google acknowledges that users may have privacy concerns with routing all of their traffic over Google's network.

"Your internet traffic will be encrypted and sent through Google's servers to the Internet. The data that is received will then be encrypted and sent back through our servers to your computer. Your privacy is important to us," the company says, pointing users to its privacy policy.

Google spokesperson Sonya Boralv explained to BetaNews that Google Wi-Fi was started by a company engineer as a "20 percent time project." Google lets its employees spend 20 percent of their time working on independent projects, which have previously planted the seed for Google News and AdSense.

Boralv noted that the Google Wi-Fi program actually began several months ago.

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