Privacy Advocate Wants Hearing on Google's Wi-Fi Spying


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Now that the non-redacted version of the Federal Communication Commission's report on Google's unsettling habit of eavesdropping on unsecured wi-fi network via the Street Car has been made available, the same privacy advocate that chastised the FCC for letting Google off with a relatively small fine is now calling on the U.S. Senate to investigate the matter.

Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to Sen. Al Franken, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, that urged the Senate to require Google CEO Larry Page to testify to the Senate and explain why the wi-fi eavesdropping program was permitted to happen. Additionally, the privacy advocacy group asked that the Senate grant immunity to the engineer who developed the program that culled the payload data from unsecured wi-fi networks. In the non-redacted FCC report, the engineer was referred to only as Engineer Doe.

"I urge your Subcommittee to subpoena the engineer, identified in the FCC order as Engineer Doe, and grant him immunity for his testimony," wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director. "Immunity from prosecution for his testimony is a small price to pay so the American people can finally understand what actually transpired."

Simpson goes on to call shenanigans on Google's previous claim that the data collection was the work of a rogue engineer.

As early as 2007 or 2008 Street View team members had wide access to Engineer Doe’s design document and code in which the plan to intercept “payload data” was spelled out. One engineer reviewed the code line by line, five engineers pushed the code into Street View cars and, according to the FCC, Engineer Doe specifically told two engineers working on the project, including a senior manager about collecting “payload data.” Nonetheless, they all claim they did not learn payload data was being collected until April or May 2010. There is no believable explanation for this. Clearly the Street View team knew or should have known that payload data was being intercepted.

Over the weekend, a spokesperson with Google told the Los Angeles Times that the reason Google had decided to release the non-redacted FCC report was to hopefully "put this matter behind us." However, Consumer Watchdog is claiming in a separate statement that Google released the FCC report after the pro-privacy group filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FCC for an unedited version. Additionally, the Electronic Privacy Information Center also filed a request for an unedited version of the FCC report.

In other words, it doesn't sound like Google was releasing the unedited report out of the goodness of its heart.