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: Google's attitude towards privacy is repugnant.
By tayb on 5/1/2012 10:03:59 AM , Rating: 1
That's not the fault of Google that's the fault of carriers. It would be trivial to push major OS updates by Google if all the carriers didn't then have to re-code and test all their crappy bolted on frameworks and such.

It is 100% Google's fault because they don't set requirements to update when they hand out the OS. Your excuse is even more invalid when you consider that Google's own devices, such as the Nexus One, don't get updates either. The fragmentation that Google allows is a major source of frustration among Android users.

Also, what's the alternative? iOS where they limit features (ala Siri) just to help promote planned obsolescence? Time to buy that new iPhone, even though the one you have could very easily support those software-based features.

As opposed to what? A 95% feature rich update or no updates at all. Tough decision as to which OS has the better update approach.

By thehatter on 5/1/2012 10:19:29 AM , Rating: 2
Your excuse is even more invalid when you consider that Google's own devices, such as the Nexus One, don't get updates either. The fragmentation that Google allows is a major source of frustration among Android users.

First: The Nexus One doesn't meet the memory requirements of ICS, and as such wouldn't run properly. Google has said this, the developer community agrees (mods need to use the SD card to offload some of the OS, something that Google wouldn't do, due to the risks). This is like blaming Microsoft because your 386 can't run Windows 7. Do you want them to do what Apple does, and just remove features, and make the OS barely usable, or would you prefer updates that add something to the phone?

Second: Android is Open Source, they provide the code, and try to mandate the updates, but they can't force them. They have set up a preferred system, which does force the manufacturer to provide the updates, but the carrier can still refuse, which AT&T does on a regular basis (even for Windows Mobile).

By Reclaimer77 on 5/1/2012 12:07:52 PM , Rating: 2
The fantasy that millions of people with perfectly fine working phones are in agony over ICS updates is a total fabrication for anti-Android trolls.

It is 100% Google's fault because they don't set requirements to update when they hand out the OS

That requirement would not only be impossible, but it would go against the very tenants that's made Android the massive success it is.

Google doesn't tell anyone what OS their phones are going to run. Do you realize that? They make a free open source OS, that's it. Take it or leave it.

By Trisped on 5/1/2012 4:55:10 PM , Rating: 2
It is 100% Google's fault because they don't set requirements to update when they hand out the OS.
The phone companies are the ones who prevent the upgrade, not the manufacture or Google.

This is the same problem experienced by Windows phones. The only reason you did not see it before was because Palm, BlackBerry, and Apple do not release updated OSes for existing devices (except for possibly bug/security risks).

When Android was originally announced the ability to upgrade the OS was a touted ability. It wasn't until the phone companies realized they could force people to upgrade (and sign a new 2 year contract) that this ability was silenced.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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