Google engineer talked of personal data plan: FCC

Reuters News

4/29/2012 1:43:46 PM - Reuters News

(Reuters) - A Google Inc engineer who wrote a computer program capable of collecting personal data from people's home wireless networks, told at least two other Google employees about it, although the company asserted it did not know, a U.S. government report showed.

The fact was revealed in a Federal Communications Commission's investigation, but had been redacted out by the FCC when it released its report two weeks ago. Google released the report itself over the weekend, with only names and telephone numbers blacked out.

Google was fined $25,000 by the FCC for impeding its investigation into the matter, in which the company's Street View cars collected the Wi-Fi data over several years while crisscrossing the globe taking panoramic pictures of streets.

According to the Google-released version of the report, the company told the FCC it did not initially know about software that would gather personal data -- know as "payload data."

"Engineer Doe specifically told two engineers working on the project, including a senior manager, about collecting payload data," the agency said in the report. "Engineer Doe intended to collect, store and review payload data for possible use in other Google projects.

"Nevertheless, managers of the Street View project and other Google employees who worked on Street View have uniformly asserted in declarations and interviews" that they did not know about it, the FCC report said.

Google released the less-edited version of the report to the media after saying it had cooperated fully with the agency.

"We decided to voluntarily make the entire document available except for the names of individuals," the company said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters in New York.

"While we disagree with some of the statements made in the document, 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."

(Reporting By Steve James; Editing by Maureen Bavdek; )