Data Harvesting at Google Not a Rogue Act, Report Finds
Posted in: Legal, Privacy & Security at 29/04/2012 22:05
Google's harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in the United States and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report.
The report, prepared by the Federal Communications Commission after a 17-month investigation of Google's Street View project, was released, heavily redacted, two weeks ago. Although it found that Google had not violated any laws, the agency said Google had obstructed the inquiry and fined the company $25,000.
Full FCC report on Google Street View reveals new details
The Google engineer who wrote the code enabling Street View cars to capture data from unprotected wireless networks told fellow engineers and a manager that he had done so, the FCC report says.
New revelations in a full report detailing the Federal Communications Commission's investigation into Google's Street View service are raising questions about whether the search giant escaped scrutiny for capturing personal information from millions of unknowing households across the nation.
Chief among the new disclosures: The engineer who intentionally wrote the software code that made it possible for Street View cars to capture emails, passwords and other data from unprotected wireless networks told fellow engineers and a senior manager that he had done so, according to the report.
Google Engineer Told Others of Data Scoop
A Google Inc. engineer told others at the company about his plan to scoop up personal information from wireless-network users as specially equipped cars drove by their homes, but the practice continued for two years after the internal disclosures, a Federal Communications Commission investigation found.
The engineer, whose name hasn't been disclosed, explained his plans to other engineers and at least one senior manager involved with the project, known as Street View, in 2008, the FCC report states. Nevertheless, it says, Street View managers told the agency they didn't learn the Google cars were collecting the personal information until 2010.
Fed Commission report marks Google low
The lone engineer who was blamed by Google for its most controversial breach of online privacy told others in the company far more about the affair than Google has previously disclosed, according to the results of a damning US regulatory investigation released over the weekend. The report, from the Federal Communications Commission, also highlights apparently serious shortcomings in Google's software development process.
These include claims from Google engineers that they were free to add code to a project without supervision if they thought they "could improve it", a failure to follow through on a recommendation to have the privacy matter screened by one of the company's in-house lawyers, and the pre-approval by a senior manager of a document before it was even written.