Apr 282012
 April 28, 2012  Posted by  Breaches, Featured News, Govt

If there’s damning evidence against you, best to get the story out yourself – and best to get it out on the weekend when fewer people follow news.

Jessica Guynn has a must-read piece in today’s L.A. Times about the FCC’s investigation of Google’s wi-fi breach. Google has reportedly released the entire report, only redacting employees’ names. But here’s the kicker:

The report points the finger at a rogue engineer who, it says, intentionally wrote software code that captured payload data information — communication over the Internet including emails, passwords and search history — from unprotected wireless networks, going beyond what Google says it intended. The engineer invoked his 5th Amendment right and declined to speak to the FCC.

But the FCC raises the question of whether engineers and managers on the Street View project did know — or should have known — that the data was being collected.

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.

Read more in the L.A. Times. So far, I’ve not found a copy of the actual report itself, but hopefully someone will point me to it. Thanks to @rford and @Walshman23 for pointing me to the actual report.

On Thursday, Google had blasted the FCC over its handling of the Street View probe and its fine for obstructing the investigation, which Google had agreed to pay. The FCC had dropped its investigation in terms of the actual core issues.  In light of today’s news, one wonders why they did as it seems there was actually some evidence that the collection of unsecured wi-fi data was intentional on at least one employee’s part.

Update: Okay, now that I’ve read their report, I do understand why they didn’t pursue it.  The legal issue boils down to if you’re using unsecured wi-fi, you are making your transmissions available to the general public, and the prohibitions of the Wiretap Act do not apply.

Google StreetView image © Modfos | Dreamstime.com

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