A "rogue engineer" was responsible for writing the code that made Google's Street View cars collect personal information over unprotected wireless networks, according to a new report.
Google released a "heavily-redacted" version of the report of the FCC's investigation into whether or not the company broke privacy laws while collecting information for Google Street View, the L.A. Times reports. The report claims that a rogue engineer wrote the code that collected a snapshot of the "payload data information," the emails, passwords and search history, of any unprotected wireless network the Street View cars drove by. The engineer who wrote the code wasn't a full-time member of the Street View team, and, according to Google's report, changes to the Street View code were permitted without getting approval from project managers. Google claims they had no idea what was happening. They even said they reviewed the engineer's code line-by-line and didn't notice it was collecting the payload data.
The FCC disagrees. In their report, they claim Google knew what was happening as early as 2006:
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.
The FCC also claims Google withheld an email from a senior manager that discussed the collection of the payload data. Google has claimed it collected the data unknowingly, and stopped in 2010 as soon as they discovered what was happening. The FCC decided what the company did wasn't illegal. They debated charging Google with breaking national wiretapping laws, but concluded they couldn't because there was no legal precedent. They did fine Google $25,000 for obstructing their investigation, which was announced earlier this month.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.