San Francisco -- Just when things were finally cooling down for Google in the Street View debacle, as more information has been leaked, and now it seems as though Google Inc. would not be able to cast away the Street View privacy scandal in its rear-view mirror any time soon. Ironically, a recent report from federal investigators and fresh information about the engineer responsible for writing the code that enabled Street View cars to collect tons of personal and private data from unsecured wireless networks for four years has been identified, according to The New York Times.
According to a recently published report in The New York Times, the formerly unnamed engineer who coded the program that allowed Google's Street View cars to clandestinely spy on internet users via unsecured Wi-Fi networks are casting doubt on Google's assurances that it did not realize that its street-mapping cars were capturing personal data from Wi-Fi networks used by millions of unsuspecting households, which has been disclosed by an anonymous former state investigator involved in a different Street View investigation.
Matt Potter pedals Google's Street View Tricycle in a park near Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (Paul Sakuma, Associated Press / March 7, 2011)
Google has criticized the data collection on a lone engineer, but the report suggests that the practice was known more widely within the company. More so, the revelations could provoke congressional hearings and reignite the controversy that Google may have thought was behind it when several federal regulatory agencies closed their investigations without bringing any charges.
“Google's motto has always been 'Do no evil'. It should also be 'Do no eavesdropping,'” said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Google needs to fully explain to Congress and the public what it knew about the collection of data through its Street View program.”
According to the New York Times, the former investigator, who asked not to be named, said the Google engineer named Marius Milner, a Wi-Fi specialist with a background in telecommunications. The Times said it uncovered Milner's identity through his LinkedIn page, where his occupation was listed as “hacker” and under the social media network's specialties category his entry said, “I know more than I want to about Wi-Fi.”
As soon as the Times was able to catch a glimpse before it apparently went on lockdown, now no longer has these listings but does confirm that he has worked for Google since 2003.
A reporter for the Times apparently communicated with Milner, who lives in Palo Alto, Calif., declined to answer the Times' questions and referred all questions to his lawyer, Martha Boersch, who also declined to comment.
Milner said that such an argument “requires putting a lot of dots together.” He also invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not talk during the FCC inquiry, which was why he was dubbed with the spooky moniker Engineer Doe.
Milner had been with Google since 2003, where he also appears to be the creator of NetStumbler, a security program for Windows PCs capable of detecting Wi-Fi networks and plug up any potential security holes also known as wardriving.
In fact, the Street View engineer's identity controversy has become a hot topic in recent days after Google released a copy of an FCC investigation (above) suggesting Google employees knew Street View cars were data snooping on open Wi-Fi networks. Google had previously stated that it unintentionally collected data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks all over the globe capturing snippets of e-mails, instant messages, web browsing and other online activity.
Despite the FCC's findings, critics are still calling for Google to be held accountable for its actions. However, prior to today's big exposure, privacy advocate Consumer Watchdog had requested from the U.S. Senate that he be granted immunity in exchange for a testimony about the Street View scandal.