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  (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 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.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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