Google had knowledge of Wi-Fi sniffing, claims FCC

April 30, 2012 // 10:23 a.m.

Tags: #fcc #federal-communications-co #federal-communications-commission #google #privacy #sniffing #street-view #wi-fi

The publication of the US Federal Communication Commission's full report into Google's Street View Wi-Fi sniffing, which the advertising giant had previously attempted to block, has revealed some additional details about the case - including the claim that Google wasn't as ignorant of the activity as it had previously claimed.

Google's Street View cars, which feature 360-degree cameras and GPS equipment - were already the subject of privacy complaints for taking photographs of peoples' houses and gardens, but the news that they were accidentally capturing Wi-Fi traffic proved too much to bear.

Numerous government bodies have investigated the case, but the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has managed to find some additional details missed by others - including the fact that top Google management were aware of the sniffing activity well before the matter became public knowledge.

According to the LA Times, which has seen an unredacted version of the FCC's report into the matter, the Google engineer responsible for coding the Wi-Fi data-grabbing portion of the Street View software told his colleagues and a senior manager exactly what he was doing.

That flies in the face of the company's claims of innocence, blaming the 'rogue' engineer for coding the capabilities and hiding it within the Street View software without telling anyone what he was doing - suggesting the company isn't as innocent as it has previously claimed.

'While we disagree with some of the statements made in the document,' a Google spokesperson told the LA Times of the report, '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.'

As Google's statement suggests, the FCC ruled that no law had been broken by the company's activities - but that didn't stop it levying a $25,000 fine against the company for attempting to obstruct the investigation - a charge the company strongly denies.
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