Print 79 comment(s) - last by Trisped.. on May 7 at 8:20 PM

  (Source: Inquisitr)
Google is watching you

Did senior level Google Inc. (GOOG) managers know of and condone one of their engineer's audacious schemes to "wardrive"  the United States and Europe, using the company's "Street View" cars?  That's what U.S. government officials at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission are accusing [Scribd].

I. Google Managers Pre-Approved Spying on the Public

The new allegations come as the latest public relations setback for Google and its emabattled "Street View" program.  The company, whose informal slogan is "Don't be evil", claims to follow an "explore first, worry about profit later" mentality.  

Street View is the perfect embodiment of the Google ethos -- or so it seemed.  Launched in 2007, the project sent cars wired with cameras and high-tech communications equipment out on the roads in an unprecedented bid to provide street-level views of every stretch of road in the developed world.

The project was supposed to be for the betterment of mankind, or something along those lines.  But Google's altruism has been called into question when it was revealed that it was using its wired Street View vehicles as warwagons to troll unsecured wireles connection connections.  Further, the Google cars were discovered to be intercepting unsecured email and SMS traffic, data mining peoples' private conversations.

Google Street View
Google merrily used its Street View cars to data mine open WiFi connections.  Now the company claims it was just an innocenent mistake, blaming an unnamed engineer.
[Image Source: Jacopast/Wikipedia]

Google cast this hidden capability as a "bug" in the Street View code, created by a misguided engineer.  But according to the FCC while Google appears to have broken no laws in spying on people on unsecured lines, emails between the engineer in charge of the program and two other employees -- including a senior manager -- indicate that the program was not a rogue effort. It was in fact on the radar of at least some members of Google's senior staff.

II. Google Let Off With a Slap on the Wrist

The FCC did dock Google $25K -- essentially a slap on the wrist for the multi-billion dollar tech firm -- for impeding its investigation.  But Google claims it has nothing to hide and is publishing the emails described by the FCC, with the engineers and manager's names redacted.

Google now admits that five of its engineers were involved in the effort, but it denies knowingly playing unwelcome house guest on home internet connections across North America and Europe.

Google wide
Google has made billions off of figuring out your online habits and providing targeted marketing. [Image Source: My Life Untethered]

The internet firm categorizes the snooping as "minimal" and says that the program was not even big enough to be reviewed by the company's legal staff.  The program was launched in Oct. 2006 by "Engineer Doe" and was pre-approved by at least one manager who devoted resources to the project.

Google's lawyers admit that the engineer who spearheaded the effort did examine personal web traffic to establish a list of most-visited websites for certain IPs, but it insists that the abuse was not pervasive.

The company promises to try extra hard to protect the public's privacy in the future.  It insists that the data mining plot was simply an innocent mistake.  A company spokesperson writes, "The record... shows that Google's supervision of the Wi-Fi data collection project was minimal ... indeed, it appears that no one at the company carefully reviewed the substance of Engineer Doe's software code or the design document."

Despite the U.S. letting off Google with just a warning, the Mountain View, Calif.-based software company is facing the prospect of stiffer fines in multiple other nations, including member states of the European Union.  The company is also facing private lawsuits over the unwanted surveillance.

Sources: Scribd [FCC/Google], The Guardian

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By Darzl on 5/1/2012 5:48:58 AM , Rating: 3
If the church is unlocked, is it okay to steal from it?
If we leave our house open, is it okay for others to help their selves to our property?
If we don't secure our LAN, is it okay for anyone to steal our data?

Don't force us to secure our property - enforce the law and stop the thieves from stealing it.

Or, is our law enforcement dead?

RE: Stealing
By Camikazi on 5/1/2012 9:34:28 AM , Rating: 2
Laws and Police are reactive methods, they cannot and will not work until a law is broken, security is a proactive method, they stop the laws from being broken in the first place. You use security to lower the chances of it happening to you since you will never stop all the offenders from trying. Learn this now and things will be better for you later on.

RE: Stealing
By bupkus on 5/1/12, Rating: 0
RE: Stealing
By NellyFromMA on 5/1/2012 12:02:03 PM , Rating: 2
An enviable system, until the laws are written to omit your right to privacy and the police to enforce them are corrupt as well.

So, basically 2/3rds of your check system fail to have functioning checks on their own institutions.

RE: Stealing
By nolisi on 5/1/2012 1:03:50 PM , Rating: 3
An enviable system, until the laws are written to omit your right to privacy and the police to enforce them are corrupt as well.

There are always those looking to game the system for their own advantage- some do it illegally (from outside the system) and some do it legally (from within).

But make no mistake, in the United States, even civilians are part of the system. You and I have legal (and moral) means of affecting change.

Blame the system for when it doesn't work, but remember that you share the blame as you are part of it- it's your civic duty to work to correct it when it's led astray by those manipulating it.

Democracy (from a legal standpoint) and revolution (from a social standpoint) shows us that government cannot do anything that is contrary to the will of the people. The will of the people needs to be strong enough to shut off Jersey Shore and Monday Night football and actually participate, however.

RE: Stealing
By JediJeb on 5/1/2012 2:09:26 PM , Rating: 3
The will of the people needs to be strong enough to shut off Jersey Shore and Monday Night football and actually participate, however.

That is probably 75% of our nation's problems right now! The people still have the power to take control of our government, yet we sit back and do nothing but complain. One day if we continue to do nothing, we will lose the right of the people to actually do something.

RE: Stealing
By Reclaimer77 on 5/2/2012 11:46:10 AM , Rating: 2
Jedi that's not the problem. The real problem now is that there is a large enough percentage of the voting population who believe we don't need to take control of our government, and that the direction we're heading in is the right one. It's a scary thought, but sadly true.

RE: Stealing
By thehatter on 5/1/2012 9:55:14 AM , Rating: 1
Lets say you see 2 people walking down the street, and they are talking about killing someone, should you be thrown in jail for violating their privacy, and steeling that information?

That is not steeling, and since you can hear any wifi communication without trying, a block away, it is the same thing.

RE: Stealing
By kattanna on 5/1/2012 10:44:57 AM , Rating: 1

what does iron have to do with this? ;>)

but yes, if you are running an unprotected wifi router, then you are asking for others to see it.

RE: Stealing
By mindless1 on 5/2/2012 9:52:10 PM , Rating: 3
You are using it with an expectation of privacy still. Nobody should be required to go to extra measures of any kind to protect against someone intentionally trying to violate your privacy.

That's the issue to me. They may receive my data fairly because I'm transmitting it, but when they deliberately try to collect and decode it in order to gather personal information about me, a line is crossed.

RE: Stealing
By futrtrubl on 5/1/2012 10:43:47 AM , Rating: 2
Not to say I don't agree with the overall senitiment of "protect your s#!t" but... I do have a problem with your definition of "without trying". In this case 'without trying' would be driving around looking for wireless networks after having writen software to record all traffic from unsecured networks.

RE: Stealing
By melgross on 5/1/12, Rating: 0
RE: Stealing
By Trisped on 5/1/2012 4:17:46 PM , Rating: 5
They had to patent the idea or someone else would and then they would no longer be able to use the product they invented.

Google did not say that patents are bad. They said the current patent laws are bad/incorrect. As a result any inventor must take steps to protect themselves.

RE: Stealing
By NellyFromMA on 5/1/2012 12:04:09 PM , Rating: 2
There is a big difference between spoken word out loud in public or within audible vacinity without tresspass and there is technologies influence on the above situation and how it inherently steps all over all non-technology based analogies...

Why do people continue to do this? It makes NO sense.

RE: Stealing
By Trisped on 5/1/12, Rating: 0
RE: Stealing
By HrilL on 5/1/2012 11:53:49 AM , Rating: 4
US law says its not illegal to look at unsecured radio waves. This is perfectly legal and not stealing at all.

Stealing is the act of taking something away from someone else and they no longer have the item taken from them. No one took any items(data packets) away from these people. Thus stealing never happened.

Back to the Law. Personally I don't think we need more laws to cover something that is really a non issue. There is no expectation of privacy in public places and the same goes for unsecured wireless communication.

If Google connected to these networks and sent data onto these networks that could be another issue. That hasn't been made clear though. But simply capturing data that is being sent into public air space seems completely reasonable to me.

RE: Stealing
By wallijonn on 5/1/2012 12:11:07 PM , Rating: 1
Stealing is the act of taking something away from someone else and they no longer have the item. No one took any items(data packets) away from these people. Thus stealing never happened.

You just justified Identity Theft. With each and every e-mail there is a user name and password along with an IP address. It is Identity Theft. For all you know Google will sell the information to the highest bidder.

RE: Stealing
By HrilL on 5/1/2012 12:39:02 PM , Rating: 3
Do you even know how email works? Each email doesn't contain a username and password. And even insecure email normally uses a password hash. Once a connection to the email server is established and the username is authenticated the connection is established. At that point the emails get sent between the to hosts. The emails themselves don't have username and password information.

RE: Stealing
By NellyFromMA on 5/1/2012 12:05:08 PM , Rating: 2
So basically, everyone should abandon WiFi as it's a false promise of a personal secure home LAN, right?

RE: Stealing
By HrilL on 5/1/2012 12:33:52 PM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure encryption was an option from even the 802.11b days. WEP 64bit while not really secure would make it illegal to break into and view the data... Not sure what you're trying to get at here. If you don't want your data to be public then you should be using encryption even if its very simple.

RE: Stealing
By Cheesew1z69 on 5/1/2012 12:58:24 PM , Rating: 2
Pretty sure his post was sarcasm.....

RE: Stealing
By Trisped on 5/1/2012 4:36:32 PM , Rating: 2
WiFi never promised security. The fact that most communication occurs over the internet where a man in the middle attack is a very real possibly did weigh in, though all WiFi networks I have ever known of supported WEP which did promise security (as weak as it was).

RE: Stealing
By tamalero on 5/1/2012 12:08:32 PM , Rating: 2
Incorrect Analogy.

because they are not stealing your money.

The correct analogy is; them wiretapping you while you scream loud enough to be heard around the entire block.. in every conversation.

they had unlocked wifis.. they should expect someone to "see" their contents..
if you're screaming damn loud.. you're a fool if you think people wont listen.

RE: Stealing
By Trisped on 5/1/2012 2:26:00 PM , Rating: 2
Or, is our law enforcement dead?
Some laws cannot not be enforced (like the hands free cell phone laws).

Some things are not illegal (like recording public information or public broadcasts).

It is a known fact that unsecured networks are open for anyone to snoop on. If you do not secure your network then you are inviting anyone within range to look at what you are doing. This is like you standing on your roof and yelling your credit card numbers. Obviously if you did not want me to use your credit card you would not have told me the number.

It is a little different, as the average person knows not to yell their credit card info, but they have not yet learned to secure their networks. Even so, all sensitive information provided over the internet is SSL encrypted so what sensitive information could Google really have gotten? It is not like Google logged onto the network and started looking for file shares (which would not be illegal since the hoster obviously wanted to share their files otherwise they would have secured their network or secured the shared folders).

Yes, the engineer should have known not to store the data for latter use. The manager should have reviewed the engineer's plans (though I have never seen a manager who listens to an engineer unless the engineer yelling about a new catastrophic problem).

RE: Stealing
By dwhapham on 5/2/2012 10:55:39 AM , Rating: 2
You said "If the church is unlocked, is it okay to steal from it". That's rubbish. What Google did was not the same and it is not stealing. Wifi is nothing more than data carried over radio waves. If you were to broadcast your e-mail in morse code over short wave radio without encrypting it, is it illegal for me to recieve it on my end? The answer is no. Radio waves don't belong to you so the act of recieving them is not a crime.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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