Google is embroiled in a hullabaloo over allegations that it cropped personal data from millions of people during its Street View project, and while the Federal Communications Commission ended its 17-month investigation into the matter, with a partial exoneration for the Internet giant, The New York Times is claiming to have found the culprit at the center of the case.
Google Street View is a service highlighted in Google Maps and Google Earth that offers panoramic views of streets. It launched in 2007 in the United States and has expanded to many cities and rural areas worldwide. The project ambitiously maps the world’s streets with photographs while accumulating data about local wireless networks to bulk location-based searches.
It eventually became apparent that Google’s Street View vehicle also gathered unencrypted information like emails and Internet searches beamed from personal computers from within homes. When this came to light, the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company fingered a nameless engineer as being solely responsible for the action, which resulted in a F.C.C. inquiry. The search engine did not break any laws, the regulatory body found, but it did obstruct the investigation.
Although Google and the F.C.C. refused to confirm, the NYT published a lengthy piece yesterday that named Marius Milner as Google’s scapegoat. A former state investigator involved in another inquiry into Street View identified Milner as the engineer responsible. He is a programmer with an extensive background in telecommunications and Wi-Fi networking. As the publication discovered, Milner listed his occupation as “hacker” on his LinkedIn page (not working now), and wrote, “I know more than I want to about Wi-Fi” under the profile’s “Specialties” category.
The official F.C.C. findings said “Google tapped Engineer Doe,” which the NYT claimed is Milner, to design Street View’s code for finding wireless hot spots. Google discovered he wrote the code during 20 percent of his work time that the company allots to employees so individuals can develop independent ideas. Milner worked at Google’s YouTube branch before Street View.
It became obvious in 2010 that Google’s Street View project collected private particulars. Google then hired computer investigations firm Stroz Friedberg to examine the source code analysis of “gstumbler”—the program accused of reaping the data. The firm’s report did not name gstumbler’s developer, but Google insisted a sole engineer implemented the code. However, as the NYT noted, many analysts are skeptical about Google’s alibi.
For many centralized projects, like Street View, Google appoints a compact group of engineers who work independently, but the F.C.C. reported released by Google on Saturday corroborates analysts suspicions and found that the pinpointed engineer likely informed one superior and at-least seven other engineers on the code about what was happening.
The NYT insisted Milner is behind the scandal, but he declined to comment, and then referred the publication to his lawyer. Read the full-story here.
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