Did Google tell Wi-Fi-spy lie? Bloggers say yes.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) could be again in trouble over the collection of unencrypted Wi-Fi data by its Street View cars. Far from it being the unauthorized act of a rogue employee, FCC documents seem to say that several engineers and at least one manager were fully aware of the data spying problem. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers break out the popcorn.

[Updated with more comment, criticism, and caustic carping]

By Richi Jennings: Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: Sideshow Bob is alive and well and banking in Germany...

    Jessica Guynn breathlessly claims an "exclusive":

Google has released the full report of the [FCC] investigation...[which] reveals new details and raises new questions. ... [It] points the finger at a rogue engineer who...wrote software code that captured payload data...from unprotected wireless networks.

...

Those working on Street View told the FCC they had no knowledge that the payload data was being collected. ... [But the FCC] accuses Google of withholding an email that openly discussed the [data collection] with a senior manager.

...

Google maintains that it did not authorize the gathering of personal information.   
M0RE

     Amir Efrati and Don Clark add:

The engineer...explained his plans to other engineers and at least one senior manager...[of] Street View. ... [The FCC] suggests that Google might have been able to move faster to put a stop to the activity.

...

Google decided to release...the report after the FCC concluded Google didn't violate a U.S. law against wiretapping.

...

The data...has been used to help Google figure out the precise location of someone using a smartphone powered by...Android.   
M0RE

Chris Davies adds 2+2, but does he get 4?

Not only did the engineer responsible for initiating Street View tell others at the company about the project...but he was apparently aware of the potential for collecting...traffic and analyzing that data.

...

[The payload] data would “be analyzed offline for use in other initiatives.” ... Google now insists that no analysis was ever made.

...

[The FCC] decided no privacy laws had been broken...despite an uncompleted to-do task...for “Discuss privacy considerations with Product Counsel”...and evidence that Google had collected unencrypted emails, site history and more. ... [As] privacy advocates get their teeth into the...report, it’s unlikely this topic will go away any time soon.   
M0RE

Ironically, Kelly Fiveash finds Google's privacy infringement works both ways:

Google...reiterated that the anonymous engineer...had invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

...

[It's] relatively easy to find details – via Google search, naturally – about which names were associated with [Street View] between 2007 and 2010.   
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And Tony Romm looks at the verdict:

Privacy hawks have long hounded Google for the...privacy flap. ... [The] Electronic Privacy Information Center argued that Google had escaped legitimate legal scrutiny.

...

The FCC, for its part, closed its probe in April 2012...[finding] that Google had obstructed its investigation...detail[ing] a series of instances. ... Yet Google rejected many of those charges in a detailed account.   
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But Edward Berridge sees a worrying culture problem at GOOG:

[It] shows that at Google, an engineer can easily embark on a project to gather personal [data] of potentially hundreds of millions of people as part of his or her unscheduled work time.

...

[This] does not show the search engine being particularly truthful. ... When information about the secret data collection first began to emerge, Google claimed the "lone gunman" defence. ... [But] it would appear that five engineers tested the...code, a sixth reviewed it line by line, and a seventh also worked on it.   
M0RE

Update: Andrew Orlowski is no friend of Google (or anyone else, it seems):

Google asked a third-party to examine the code, and that technical report...confirms that data frames were captured from unsecured networks, and SSID and MAC addresses captured from all Wi-Fi networks.

...

Engineer Doe decided that it was not a privacy concern because the...[receiver] would not be “in proximity to any given user for an extended period of time”...and that “[n]one of the data gathered would be presented to end users of [Google services] in raw form”.

...

Google co-founder Sergey Brin recently confessed a fascinating desire...“If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great." ... You can see why. Google’s rap sheet...grows by the day.
M0RE

    And Finally...
Sideshow Bob is alive and well and banking in Germany
   
 
Don't miss out on IT Blogwatch:

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. He's the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch, for which he has won ASBPE and Neal awards. He also writes The Long View for IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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