Google released sworn denials (PDF) on Tuesday from nine Googlers who claimed they had no knowledge about data mining in the Street View mapping project.
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 expanded to many cities and rural areas worldwide. The project ambitiously maps the world’s streets with photographs, but the plotting venture allegedly cropped unencrypted Internet data from wireless networks for roughly three years until 2010.
Google’s Street View automobiles gathered sensitive information, including private dispatches, as it roamed many boulevards, avenues, roads, highways, lanes, and thoroughfares across the globe. Tuesday’s unveiled declarations by nine Google engineers featured redacted names and titles, while it explicitly disclosed that the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company employees did not know about the misconduct. The Googlers were in the dark, because either content collection was not a part of their job, or they did not assess given project documentation.
It eventually became publicly clear that Street View gathered unencrypted information, like emails and Internet searches beamed between personal computers from within homes, thanks to German regulators who began to probe the mapping service in their country. When the findings came to light, Google fingered a nameless engineer as being solely responsible for the action, which resulted in a Federal Communications Commission inquiry.
The search engine did not break any laws, the regulatory body found, but it did obstruct the investigation. The F.C.C. fined the company $25,000, despite the sworn documents having been originally provided as part of the inquiry into Street View.
The New York Times published a lengthy piece in May that named Marius Milner as Google’s scapegoat. 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 F.C.C.’s findings contradicted The New York Times report, however, and claimed the cropping was not the work of a lone engineer. The F.C.C. speculated the offensive act occurred during engineers’ 20 percent time that Google allots for employees to work on their own projects. The federal agency discovered the engineer “specifically told two engineers working on the project, including a senior manager, about collecting payload data.”
Corresponding with the unveiling of the sworn denials, The Register reported that the Information Commissioner’s Office in Britain reopened its investigation into Street View. A Google spokesperson confirmed the news yesterday, and then revealed the company already deleted the data gathered in Britain.
Google also divulged on Tuesday, from an original letter in April 2011, according to The New York Times, that it has not “disclosed the data to any third party; has not used the data in any product or service; and has not used the data for the benefit of any person or entity in any way.”
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