Google Street View “Rogue” Engineer Identified in Spying ScandalBy: Drew Bowling - May 1, 2012
When basically anything you want to know about the world is out there on the internet and all you need in order to find it is some gumption and know-how, is anybody surprised that the concealed identity of the engineer at the center of Google’s Street View scandal would stay concealed very long? Ironic, then, that the identity of the engineer who created the program that allowed Google’s Street View car to surreptitiously spy on internet users via unsecured Wi-Fi networks would be revealed by an anonymous former state investigator involved in a different Street View investigation.
According to the New York Times, the former investigator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, named the Google engineer as Marius Milner, a Wi-Fi specialist with a background in telecommunications. According to his LinkedIn page, which the Times was able to glimpse before it apparently went on lockdown, he described himself as, “I know more than I want to about Wi-Fi.”
Both Google and the Federal Trade Commissions had refused to name Milner, referring to him only as Engineer Doe.
A reporter for the Times apparently spoke to Milner on his doorstep, where he declined comment except for the cryptic defense against Google’s claims he acted as a rogue. Milner said that such an argument “requires putting a lot of dots together.” Beyond that, he declined comment and deferred the reporter to speak with his lawyer (who also declined to comment). Milner invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not talk during the FCC inquiry, which was why he was dubbed with the spooky moniker Engineer Due.
Milner had been with Google since 2003. It was around that time that he developed the program NetStumbler, which was a Windows program capable of detecting Wi-Fi networks, also known as wardriving.
The F.C.C. report notes that wardriving is “the practice of driving streets and using equipment to locate wireless local-area networks using Wi-Fi, such as wireless hot spots at coffee shops and home wireless networks.”
To design Street View’s code for locating wireless hot spots, the F.C.C. report states, “Google tapped Engineer Doe.”
The engineer — Mr. Milner’s LinkedIn entry says he has worked at Google’s YouTube subsidiary since November 2008 — wrote the code during the 20 percent of work time that the company gives employees to pursue ideas on their own, Google told the F.C.C., according to the agency’s full report.
Prior to today’s big reveal, privacy advocate Consumer Watchdog had requested from the U.S. Senate that he be granted immunity in exchange for a testimony about the Street View scandal. However, it’s hard to parse exactly what immunity he’d be granted since the FCC has already deemed that Google broke no laws other than obstructing the investigation, for which the company was fined $25,000. Additionally, the Department of Justice apparently already looked into the matter and concluded it would not “pursue a case for violation of the Wiretap Act.”
At any rate, it doesn’t sound like Milner isn’t going to easily let go of the fact that it sounds like Google may have tried to throw him under the bus when this story soured.