Feeds

Google Street View Wi-Fi data slurper named

Unmasked 'rogue engineer' worked on wardriving app

High performance access to file storage

The 'Engineer Doe', who designed Google's Street View Wi-Fi software to collect personal data, has been named by an American newspaper.

The engineer is reportedly Marius Milner, developer of the popular NetStumbler wardriving programme for Windows. Milner describes his occupation as a "hacker" on his LinkedIn page.

Google initially denied collecting personal information using its street-mapping camera-car fleet, then admitted it had captured unsecured Wi-Fi traffic but blamed a lone gunman slurper: a so-called "rogue engineer" who wrote the software in his "20 per cent time permitted for self-directed projects".

An investigation by the Federal Communications Commission demolished this theory, however. The FCC found Google guilty of obstructing its investigation but concluded that collecting personal data from unsecured wireless networks did not breach the US Wiretap Act.

Privacy group EPIC says the FCC report "undercuts the company's prior statements that a rogue engineer was responsible for the payload data collection".

"Instead," the organisation added, "it indicates that Google intentionally intercepted payload data for business purposes and that many supervisors and engineers within the company reviewed the code and the design documents associated with the project."

Google itself released the FCC's report into its Street View data collection activities on Saturday, with most of the details readable - some portions remain redacted. Groups including EPIC and Consumer Watchdog have filed Freedom of Information requests to access all of the documents in the case.

An independent source code analysis of the engineer's work, commissioned by Google, is now available [PDF, 486KB].

A little business context, missing from most press reports on this story, is useful to remember here. It concerns a firm called SkyHook.

SkyHook is a Boston-based company that had already compiled a nationwide database of Wi-Fi access points. The biz merely collected SSID and signal strength - not personal data. SkyHook's database was used by licensees of Google's Android operating system for locations services. Eighteen months ago, SkyHook filed a suit claiming that Google had strong-armed Android licensees to use Google's location database instead of SkyHook's.

Far from being the work of a "lone slurper" tinkering in his own time, the software could be seen as creating an essential component of the Street View software stack. Google's Wi-Fi access point database was considered to be of enormous strategic significance.

Google's strategy after the data-slurp is proving to be much more interesting than the actual packet sniff. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
Broadband Secretary of SHEEP sensationally quits Cabinet
Maria Miller finally resigns over expenses row
Skype pimps pro-level broadcast service
Playing Cat and Mouse with the media
Beat it, freetards! Dyn to shut down no-cost dynamic DNS next month
... but don't worry, charter members, you're still in 'for life'
Like Google, Comcast might roll its own mobile voice network
Says anything's possible if regulators approve merger with Time Warner
EE dismisses DATA-BURNING glitch with Orange Mail app
Bug quietly slurps PAYG credit - yet EE denies it exists
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.