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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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
"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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