Google Released FCC Report on Street View data Theft IncidentIf you remember, Google got into some hot water for ‘accidentally’ stealing private information from open wifi networks. Google, of course, has continually defended its innocence, claiming that the code that captured the information was cruft from a lab experiment the company had been working on.
The FCC didn’t buy that and launched an investigation into Google, questing to prove whether the company violated its famous “do no evil” motto.
Now Google has released the report that the FCC compiled on the incident to the public, following a fierce battle with the FCC over what information would be redacted. In the end, the report shipped out with only private names removed.
The story that the FCC tells is a little chilling, one which reeks of either mismanagement or fraudulent behavior. In it, a lone software engineer wrote a piece of code that would capture personal information from open networks. He told two other engineers about this piece of code, and also included it in a report to the managers above him. Apparently, however, the managers missed this as all claimed ignorance of the code, claiming that they “did not notice” that the code would behave the way it did.
His co-workers also said that they don’t remember talking about it. Now, granted, engineers talk about lots of things throughout the day. And managers probably have a lot of paperwork to read, most of which is unimportant. But still.
The report also mentions that Google purposely withheld a piece of information from the FCC. An email sent by the employee to senior Street View management allegedly discussed the employee’s views on private information. We don’t know that, however, because Google refused to let the FCC look at the email. This is probably the reason for the $25,000 fine the FCC levied against Google.
Despite all this, Google maintains that the data collection was never intended to happen. And in all likelyhood, that is probably the case. Any time you have a company as large and diverse as Google writing and implementing various policies around the world, occasionally something bad is going to slip through. In all reality, the fact that Google has done as little harm as it has is news itself. The fact that this slip-up was news-worthy is a testament to Google’s integrity as a whole.
But then there is still the fact that this code and the data capture went purportedly unnoticed for as long as it did.