Someone drop a few bottles of Excedrin off at Google HQ today and mark them for the PR office, because there are some migraines going on over there. Google released a new version of an FCC report from a couple of weeks ago that indicates a Google engineer knew that software being built for the Street View cars was capable of collecting personal data off of home Internet connections. The report was heavily redacted by the FCC when initially released but Google’s version includes everything except names and phone numbers of people involved.
The issue now seems to be about whether the engineer’s colleagues and/or superiors knew about this.
According to the FCC report: The engineer in question told two other engineers, including a senior manager, that he was collecting the payload data. He also gave the entire Street View team a copy of a document in October 2006 that detailed his work on Street View. In it, he noted that Google would be logging such data.
Those working on Street View told the FCC they had no knowledge that the payload data was being collected. Managers of the Street View program said they did not read the October 2006 document. An different engineer remembered receiving the document but did not recall any reference to the collection of payload data. An engineer who worked closely with the engineer in question on the project in 2007, reviewing all of the codes line by line for bugs, says he did not notice that the software was designed to capture payload data. A senior manager said he preapproved the document before it was written.
The report indicates that the engineer was working on Street View part time and included the code to see if that collected data could be used for other Google projects.
Before you take up torches and pitchforks and storm the engineer’s cubicle, the data that was collected is from unsecured Wi-Fi hubs that was just being sent out into the ether. Collecting it is sort of the data equivalent of recording the music blasting out of a house that’s having a party.