April 30, 2012
Google Employees Knew Of Street View Data Collection Code
Documents obtained by Reuters and the Los Angeles Times have brought to light new details regarding Google Street View and the Federal Communications Commission´s (FCC) investigation into the service.
According to Times reporter Jessica Guynn, an unredacted version of the government report into allegations regarding the collection of personal information by Street View personnel revealed that the engineer who created the software code responsible for the collection of said data did not do so in secret. In fact, Guynn said that the report, which was released by the Menlo Park, California-based company Sunday following a number of public records requests, revealed that the employee had told co-workers and a senior manager that he had done so.
"Engineer Doe specifically told two engineers working on the project, including a senior manager, about collecting payload data," FCC investigators wrote in the report, according to Reuters. "Engineer Doe intended to collect, store and review payload data for possible use in other Google projects“¦ Nevertheless, managers of the Street View project and other Google employees who worked on Street View have uniformly asserted in declarations and interviews" that they had no knowledge of this individual's actions.
Previously, as Forbes.com Contributor Anthony Wing Kosner pointed out in a Sunday article, Google officials had claimed that the collection of this private data, which included emails and passwords obtained from unprotected wireless networks, was a "mistake" that had been perpetrated by a "rogue engineer," and that the company had no intention of collecting it had no plans to use it.
As RedOrbit's Michael Harper wrote on Saturday, the investigation has been a somewhat ugly affair that has pitted federal investigations against one of the largest tech companies in the US. Earlier this month, the FCC claimed that Google “deliberately impeded and delayed” their investigations for months as they chose not to respond to requests for information and documents.
"In the end, the FCC said they would take no action against Google over their data collection other than asking for a $25,000 slap-on-the-wrist," Harper wrote on Saturday. "Now, Google is on the offensive, saying they´ll pay the fine, but they aren´t too happy about it“¦ In a 14-page long diatribe, Google set out to explain that they had done nothing wrong in collecting the data captured via unsecured, local networks."
Google officials expressed hope that the release of the uncensored report will put an end to controversy.
“We decided to voluntarily make the entire document available except for the names of individuals,” company spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in a statement emailed to Guynn and other media outlets. “While we disagree with some of the statements made in the document, we agree with the FCC´s conclusion that we did not break the law. We hope that we can now put this matter behind us.”