Google admits Street View engineer told colleagues about collecting Wi-Fi data

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A Google engineer who wrote a program that collected private data from people’s unsecured Wi-Fi networks told at least two colleagues he had done so.

That’s according to the full version of a report detailing the FCC’s investigation into the internet giant.

The issue caused uproar in the US and Europe when it was revealed that data had been collected as Google’s Street View cars drove around capturing images.

The program was first written in 2006, and the internet giant began collecting data two years later, continuing right through until early 2010.

The request for a full report was first made by the Electronic Privacy Information Centre earlier this month.

The internet giant instead decided to give first dibs on the report to the Los Angeles Times. In an emailed statement to the paper Google spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said “We decided to voluntarily make the entire document available except for the names of individuals”.

“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,” she added.

According to the report, the so-called “rogue” engineer wasn’t concerned about the implications of the program because the Street View cars would only be in range of open Wi-Fi networks for moments at a time.

The report also reveals that the engineer took the program to a member of the company’s Search Quality team in the hopes that it might give some indication of how often people were using Google. His colleague told him that “it had no use or value”.

When the scandal first broke, Google denied having collected any data, and then said it only collected fragments of data before admitting that it had captured entire emails, passwords and search history and apologising.

Although it considered charging Google with violating US wiretapping laws, the FCC determined that Google had not actually committed a criminal offence.

The federal body says, however, that it still has “significant factual questions” about why the data was collected.

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