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 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).

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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