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FCC Wants To Fine Google $25K For WiFi Investigation

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the dragging-your-feet dept.

Google 145

An anonymous reader writes "It's good and bad news for Google. The FCC has ruled that Google did nothing wrong when it accidentally collected WiFi data with its Street View cars: '[The FCC] concluded that there was no precedent for the commissions' enforcement of the law in connection with WiFi networks. The FCC also noted that, according to the available evidence, Google only collected data from unencrypted WiFi networks, not encrypted ones, and that it never accessed or used the data.' However, they want to fine the company $25,000 because it 'deliberately impeded and delayed the investigation.'"

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145 comments

Also known as (4, Informative)

bobwrit (1232148) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694601)

"Hey, our budget could very well get cut soon. Let's fine people for things!" That's what I suspect the FCC's reasoning is. They just wont admit it.

Re:Also known as (5, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694621)

Well, you know, seeing as how impeding an official investigation is actually something you can be charged and convicted of in a criminal investigation, it seems only fair that it should be a finable offense in an investigation such as this.

Re:Also known as (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694645)

how can you impede something that you are innocent of ?

Isn't that the equivalent of saying - "I did not do it" and continuing to protest such ?

Re:Also known as (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694667)

You can delay the proceedings by not providing information in a timely manner.

Re:Also known as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694963)

In fairness, it's the David Drummond asshole who is responsible for this. Engineers did not have any problem with this, but they are not decision makers.

--
Disclaimer: I work for TAGA (The Arrogant Google Assholes)

Re:Also known as (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695571)

You can delay the proceedings by not providing information in a timely manner.

The FCC can also get a subpoena instead of asking Google to voluntarily throw an employee under the bus.

Re:Also known as (5, Insightful)

divide overflow (599608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694719)

how can you impede something that you are innocent of ?

Isn't that the equivalent of saying - "I did not do it" and continuing to protest such ?

No, because the delay was separate from their declaration of innocence. They impeded the government's investigation by not providing the court subpoenaed information relevant to the investigation in a timely manner. When investigations go on longer than necessary it increases the workload for the investigators and their assistants and results in increased the costs to the taxpayer.

Re:Also known as (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694913)

They should use an operating system with a better scheduler. When one investigation is blocked, they work on one that isn't.

Re:Also known as (4, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695147)

When investigations go on longer than necessary it increases the workload for the investigators and their assistants and results in increased the costs to the taxpayer.

It seems they requested information that took Google a few months to produce. Google did not provide emails that the FCC requested or identify the engineer who authorized the data collection

It doesn't seem that apparent that Google was attempting to delay the investigation. If the FCC requests a company produce all e-mails that meet a certain criteria, that can be a huge burden for IT that may inherently take many man hours, and they have to be certain that what is produced is complete, before sending anything -- or be at risk of being accused of attempting to conceal or failing to comply with the order to produce.

As for reporting on 'which engineer authorized the data collection'; that may be a rather complicated matter as well -- the various entities involved need to complete their finger pointing and internal investigations and review of internal records to figure out who actually did what.
That would be even more complicated if no engineer specifically authorized the data collection, but hey...

A 2 or 3 month delay begins to sound quite plausible, and not unreasonable. It could very well be innocent ineptitude, poor management, or inefficiency in doing the work to satisfy unusual requests, to draw matters out further, it's not necessary to conclude malice.

Without specific evidence of intentional delay, there's no basis for a fine.

B S (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695429)

According to TFA, the Google engineer in-charge invoked his fifth amendment right against self incrimination. That means Google knew exactly who they were protecting from the FCC.

Re:B S (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695639)

only if exactly one engineer invoked his 5th ammendment rights. If more than one does, they don't.

Re:B S (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695699)

It doesn't work like that...

Re:Also known as (2)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695861)

You cannot be guilty (or innocent) of an investigation. You might be innocent of the charge but that is not the question. Did they impede an official investigation?

What would happen if someone saw the police taking pictures and measuring stuff (an investiagtion) and went over and delibarately got in their way because they are an idiot?
They would be liable to be arrested even though they had nothing to do with what was being investigated. They were impeding an official investigation.

Why should Google be exempt? I like Google and usetheir stuff. I don't think $25k is a big deal to them anyway.

Re:Also known as (5, Interesting)

Anarchduke (1551707) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694695)

Actually, I think this is a violation of Google's 5th amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. I know that we've never applied the 5th amendment to corporations before, but if you think about the Citizen's United ruling, the Supreme Court has already said that corporations are people and enjoy 1st amendment rights. Why couldn't they enjoy 5th amendment rights as well?
In fact, I would enjoy seeing a corporation take a case like this to the Supreme Court and say, "I am legally a person and so the blah blah blah law shouldn't apply to me because it is a violation of my Nth amendment rights as a person.

Re:Also known as (2)

divide overflow (599608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694835)

In fact, I would enjoy seeing a corporation take a case like this to the Supreme Court and say, "I am legally a person and so the blah blah blah law shouldn't apply to me because it is a violation of my Nth amendment rights as a person.

Great...another opportunity for the Supreme Court to FURTHER expand on the insanity of the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision. Like my mom says: "We need that like a hole in the head."

Re:Also known as (2, Funny)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694999)

Well, you do need a few holes in the head for breathing and eating and such.

Re:Also known as (2, Funny)

divide overflow (599608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695171)

Well, you do need a few holes in the head for breathing and eating and such.

And who would know better than LandDolphin?

Re:Also known as (5, Funny)

million_monkeys (2480792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695029)

In fact, I would enjoy seeing a corporation take a case like this to the Supreme Court and say, "I am legally a person and so the blah blah blah law shouldn't apply to me because it is a violation of my Nth amendment rights as a person.

Great...another opportunity for the Supreme Court to FURTHER expand on the insanity of the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision. Like my mom says: "We need that like a hole in the head."

Without context, I don't know how to interpret that quote. Does your mom suffer from intercranial bleeding? Because in that case, a hole in the head might save her life.

Re:Also known as (1)

divide overflow (599608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695161)

Without context, I don't know how to interpret that quote. Does your mom suffer from intercranial bleeding? Because in that case, a hole in the head might save her life.

So many talented doctors here on Slashdot.... <grin>

Re:Also known as (2)

FunkDup (995643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695997)

Not to mention some other holes in that appendage. I've found my mouth to be rather useful, for example.

Re:Also known as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39696115)

Without context, I don't know how to interpret that quote. Does your mom suffer from intercranial bleeding? Because in that case, a hole in the head might save her life.

watched Dr House?

Twins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694977)

the Supreme Court has already said that corporations are people and enjoy 1st amendment rights.

That's why I plan on creating a corporation named after myself, declare myself a twin, do shitty things like robs banks, make deadly children's toys or what have you as my corporate name, and when punishment time comes; well, we all know what kind of punishment corporations get.

So, if I go and steal millions of dollars and cause people physical harm or even death, I know that I won't go to jail: I (my corporation) will just be fined for much less than I stole, the people who sue for wrongful whatever will get peanuts compared to my booty, and I'll live happily ever after because after all, what's good for the corporation is good for America!

Oh! And I'd have the benefit of the propaganda on Fox News and talk radio saying that the people complaining are a bunch of whack-jobs, I create jobs, blah blah blah, yada yada yada, and the public's pea brains will forget in a nano-second of what my corporation (it was meeee) did.

Re:Also known as (2)

detritus. (46421) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695039)

The FCC can fine people and corporations for using obscene language over the air, which technically violates the First Amendment.
I think it may boil down to, "All your airwaves are belong to us."

Re:Also known as (1)

TemplePilot (2035400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695275)

All Ur airwaves only belong to U in the USA... In Canada all Ur airwaves R belong to Canada!

Re:Also known as (2)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695187)

Actually, I think this is a violation of Google's 5th amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

They aren't asking Google to testify in court, so no, it's not self-incrimination, it's production of records. Also, Google is being charged with violations of regulations, which is more of a "civil" matter. The managers aren't at risk of going to jail over this; this isn't like a wire fraud allegation.

If you keep a personal diary, and in it you describe your crimes; the contents of your diary can be used against you in court.

Unlike with Google, if you're suspected of a crime, police will get a warrant, go into your house and seize it.

Whereas, if you are a big company accused of violationg a regulation -- a court will order you to produce all relevant evidence. You're on your honor to not hide anything. You as a corporation have an opportunity to shred documents; and the worst case is if you're caught you pay a fine.

I've yet to see a company ever be "sent to jail" for violating a criminal act. Does that mean for the next 10 years, all the employees including managers at 9am have to show up at prison in orange, to sit in a cell for 8 hours every work day, do their work under close surveillance, and the state gets all the company's profits?

Re:Also known as (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695589)

Your thinking skills are inadequate.

Citizens United did *not* say corps are people (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696029)

... if you think about the Citizen's United ruling, the Supreme Court has already said that corporations are people and enjoy 1st amendment rights ...

The Citizens United ruling did not say that corporations are people. That was how an opponent of the decision characterized the ruling. In other words it was highly successful political spin.

IIRC what the Supreme Court actually said was that people, whether as individuals or as part of a group (activist organization, trade union, corporation, etc) have first amendment rights. They also said that a corporation that owns newspapers and TV stations does not enjoy any extra privileges compared to other corporations, basically that media corporations are not special.

Re:Also known as (4, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694883)

Well, yes, but. What did google do to "impede" the investigation??? What I recall is that google resisted handing over other people's information to a federal agency that was claiming that collecting that information was a privacy breach--in other words, google was trying to mitigate the damage, if any, done to people, based on the theory that if it really was a privacy breach to collect the information, it would be more of a privacy breach to disseminate it. I seem to recall google offering to answer lots of questions about the type of info, but only resisting turning it over en masse.

Let's face it: "hey collecting that data was a huge privacy breach, now hand it over to us" is really not a reasonable stance ;-)

Re:Also known as (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695671)

Kudos to Google for dragging their feet.

All the feds ever wanted was to use the wifi "hack" as an excuse for a data grab without the inconvenience of a search warrant.

Re:Also known as (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695949)

Kudos to Google for dragging their feet.

All the feds ever wanted was to use the wifi "hack" as an excuse for a data grab without the inconvenience of a search warrant.

Maybe you can help me: is the tinfoil hat more effective with the shiny side in or out?

Re:Also known as (3, Funny)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696043)

Depends on whether you are more afraid of telepathy or hypnosis.

Re:Also known as (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694665)

Given that the FCC's budget is somewhere around $350 million, levying fines of $0.025 million doesn't seem like a plausible funding strategy. That's just noise to both the FCC and Google's budgets. Imo it's more likely that it's just a symbolic fine.

Re:Also known as (3, Interesting)

cgenman (325138) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694915)

It seems like the sort of fine that would get on the record that Google was being uncooperative. In the future, the FCC can use this to convince judges of larger fines or stronger enforcement provisions to convince Google to live up to its data release requirements.

Re:Also known as (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695553)

Or it will encourage Google to be more cooperative next time, so there won't need to be a fine.

Once, when I was about ten, my mom gave me a light smack on the behind for staying out till midnight without letting her know where I was or what I was doing. Clearly, by your logic, she was just setting me up for arbitrary unjustified beatings later.

Re:Also known as (0)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696263)

So, this paddling from your mom that you're clearly obsessed with... how much did you enjoy it, on a scale from "semi'ed" to "spanked off to it every night since"?

Sometimes the post really is all about you.

Re:Also known as (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695037)

Spot on. That's a "respect my authority" fine, suggested by some midlevel bureaucrat who was offended by Google's ridiculous failure to instantly comply with their every whim (aka impeding investigation) . Let it be known to all, we 're not going to tolerate that kinds uppittyness from the rabble! Fine them, just because we can.

Re:Authority/_nomap (2)

TemplePilot (2035400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695319)

I believe in questioning authority up until a certain point, and that point is reached when I am the authority. I say fine them for every incident 25K is a big fat nothing if it stands alone up against a corporate infrastructure with billions in the bank. I also disagree with the "_nomap [searchengineland.com] " angle we shouldn't have to be forced to append _nomap to our SSID's. Instead Google should make it opt in... those who wish to be mapped can append _MapMe to their SSID if they so choose, it would only be fair.

Re:Also known as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694711)

On the other side it's also known as "The FCC's fine would mean leaving out the gold-flaked jellybeans from the public area jellybean jars for a month. The regular and endangered-species-filled jellybeans would continue being available uninterrupted."

Re:Also known as (0, Troll)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694761)

You have to understand that Google is growing to be one of the largest public menaces of today. $25k fine for blocking an investigation - no prob. Just make the engineer take the 5th and "lose" internal emails. Much cheaper than dealing with the consequences of your actions.

The one thing preventing a major threat from Goog is that they can't execute on anything anymore. All of their recent initiatives have been failures (buzz, chrome, goog+), with the possible exception of android, which is still on the fence.

this leaves Facebook as the greatest threat to public freedom right now.

Re:Also known as (0)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694831)

mod parent UP!. +10 insightful.

Re:Also known as (2)

Vrekais (1889284) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694951)

How has Chrome been a failure? I'm genuinely interested not trying to troll. I thought it did what it was meant to, collect even more usable data on search criteria by user and deploy new web technologies as fast as possible. I know it's probably telling Google everything they need to know about me to sell me anything but I still use it for some reason.

I still think the lack of a 64 bit version of flash when I got my first 64 bit computer was what made me swap from Firefox. Chrome's built in flash support was ever so slightly more stable than vanilla flash in 32 or 64 bit Firefox. Since haven't had reason to swap back, Google Sync has kept me firmly in Chrome ( I think Firefox has something similar now but haven't looked).

Re:Also known as (0)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696205)

I meant chrome OS. remember, the one that was going to revolutionize computing? it's pretty much radio silence now.

Re:Also known as (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695271)

Chrome has been collecting an ever-growing market share, any user data along with that market share, and is generally the best browser available to the average person in terms of speed, reliability and security. How is that a failure?

Re:Also known as (1, Informative)

toddmbloom (1625689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695399)

The best browser in the marketplace would be Safari, followed by Opera, followed by Firefox.

The adware-ridden, privacy failure known as Chrome would be near the bottom, by IE.

Re:Also known as (2)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695515)

Safari is junk on Windows, Opera is outside of the reach of the average person, and Firefox has become a bloated, buggy piece of shit since their idea to rapid-fire their releases. Chrome, OTOH, is faster than all 3 for any remotely dynamic webpage (and the same speed as Opera on static pages), is more secure than all 3 (Google's data mining is not a security concern, and can be turned off anyway), and doesn't crash like Firefox.

Re:Also known as (0)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696137)

parent is largely correct. on mac, safari > firefox >> chrome. On windows, ie9 = firefox > safari > chrome > ie8 > ie7. I think safari works well on windows, but I don't like the nonstandard interface.

Re:Also known as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39696199)

Google's data mining is not a security concern, and can be turned off anyway

Sure, it can be turned off. Whether or not Google actually honors the settings you've selected is another matter entirely, and in light of their behavior with IE and Safari users recently, it certainly seems like they're more of the opinion that "what's ours is ours, what's yours is ours, and if there's a way we can get at your info short of killing some of your family, we'll probably do it."

Let's not pretend Google has a good history of honoring users' privacy wishes.

Re:Also known as (1)

dufachi (973647) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695305)

oh yeah cause 2nd place in the browser market is such a horrible failure.

Re:Also known as (1, Redundant)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696113)

I was referring to chrome OS, my friend. Ever heard of it? I prove my point.

Re:Also known as (4, Insightful)

divide overflow (599608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694783)

"Hey, our budget could very well get cut soon. Let's fine people for things!" That's what I suspect the FCC's reasoning is. They just wont admit it.

That makes no sense. $25k is nothing to either Google OR the FCC and wouldn't impress any legislator responsible for approving FCC budgets. The fines probably go into some general government pool that wouldn't affect their resources.

What makes more sense is the FCC did this to give other corporations the message that they need to come clean about what they've done and not drag their feet providing subpoenaed information.

Re:Also known as (3, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695129)

It's 25 grand. It sends a message that they're petty and insecure. Google should fight it up to $25K worth of government lawyers time to be equally petty.

Re:Also known as (5, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694789)

Jeez, when I want to get to work a little faster, I'm risking a fine that's equivalent to several hours of pay, and I only get paid 2000 hours a year... Google gives federal investigators a hard time and they only propose to fine them about 3 seconds [yahoo.com] of gross profit?

Re:Also known as (2)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695273)

Jeez, when I want to get to work a little faster, I'm risking a fine that's equivalent to several hours of pay, and I only get paid 2000 hours a year... Google gives federal investigators a hard time and they only propose to fine them about

I think you're missing that there is no connection between fine amounts and your rate of pay. Fines are a shot across the bow; "shape up, or else".

You too as an individual can give federal investigators a hard time and only get a $25,000 fine, if you're lucky enough to not get a prison sentence.

Now if you happen to earn $40,000 a year, yes, that fine is a significant burden. On the other hand, if you happen to earn $300,000 a year, much less of a burden.

This is an inherent injustice with using fines as a deterrant; they are unfairly caustic to those who can't afford the fine, and they are unfairly lenient to those who can.

The government really has no business attaching dollar amounts to violations. Instead what they should do is force the offender to take all reasonable actions (even fiscally irresponsible ones) that ameloriate for their wrongdoing.

For example, I would support Google being required, as punishment for failure to comply with the investigation, to get the list of wireless APs they gathered too much data from, and send at least 2 employees to personally apologize to each and every AP owner they gathered data from, offer them a minimum of $50 cash compensation for their error, and they must visit every AP location for at least 10 minutes, within 30 days, and mail a check to the building owner if they cannot make personally make contact with anyone there after 2 attempts.

Re:Also known as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695311)

I guess my point is that, if speeding fines were a few cents, or even $5, they'd hardly be a deterrent to anyone. At $25K, Google is going to spend more than that in PR department spin control effort... Your punishment does seem more likely to deter future offenses, and simultaneously less likely to actually happen than a simple $2.5M fine - with perhaps $2M of that devoted to a data security public education campaign.

Re:Also known as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695443)

I think you're missing that there is no connection between fine amounts and your rate of pay.
Fines are a shot across the bow; "shape up, or else".

Actually what some countries did is set fines based on income.

Re:Also known as (4, Insightful)

Anonymus (2267354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695951)

But then what's the point of being rich if it doesn't mean that you're above the law?

Re:Also known as (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696269)

Just so you know, Google won't put as much time into deciding which denomination of bills to toss in the general direction of The Man as you just put into analysing it.

Re:Also known as (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694809)

Given that all fines and fees collected bu the US Government go into a common fund (subsequently spent by Congress), and not by the agency collecting them... As the person above said, with regards to their budget, I doubt this is a motive.

But, as with the budget, don't let facts stand in your way.

Re:Also known as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694881)

Who modded this insightful? USD $25k is a pittance. That's 1/10th the cost of a software engineer for one year, going by the usual rule that half the cost of an employee is salary.

Re:Also known as (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695413)

That's 1/10th the cost of a software engineer for one year, going by the usual rule that half the cost of an employee is salary.

Doubtlessly the 1/2 figure is an overestimate of convenience for employee cost, or gross generalization, probably used to justify paying an unfairly low salary.

Most of the additional employee costs are imposed by the government, and around 10%, but SS taxes are capped at a certain salary level. Others are fixed costs that are not proportionally related to salary.

For example... company buys a laptop for each employee every 3 years, to get work done. Is that really an employee cost though; or is it just recorded as one for accounting purposes?

There are fixed costs that depend on the number of employees, but they're really incidental.

For Project X to be done on time, the cost of getting the project done is salary+taxes for N employees, f(N) laptops, and g(N) desks.

Employee SS taxes and insurance, vary with salary, other costs are fixed besides salary and insurance benefits; there are only some gross distinctions, such as managers might get a more expensive workspace, more powerful computer, more monitors than the engineers, etc.

Unless the company is granting employees some kind of extra variable benefit that depends on salary based on internal policy, 1/2 should be a vast overestimate.

Re:Also known as (2)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696021)

This is a relative slap on the wrist. This is more of a "You made us have to put in extra work on this issue by you playing PR games. Here is how much that time you cost us." than a true fine.

So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694613)

Hmmmm... the whole thing stinks for Google and it sounds like they're getting let off not because they did nothing wrong but because the FCC had no business investigating it anyway. BUT, shouldn't it be perfectly proper for them to 'impede' an investigation that the FCC had no business carrying out in the first place?

GOP FTW! (1)

Tommy Bologna (2431404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694661)

How are they ever going to scrape together $25k? Damn these regulators!

Re:GOP FTW! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694699)

it is the precedent of the thing, not the amount. If you are simply charged with a crime, then have to foot the bill for the investigation even when found not guilty. Sounds like an awesome way to extort or intimidate someone, especially smaller companies that might not be able to foot a lengthy investigation bill.

Re:GOP FTW! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694987)

It's kind of the bureacracy-and-corp version of being arrested on charges of "resisting arrest".

fine? (2)

Mindscrew (1861410) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694675)

According to this [incomediary.com] google lost less than 41sec of revenue with this fine...

Google's excuse is a bit weak... (5, Interesting)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694685)

When queried by multiple governments (incl. France) why Google's Streetview Cars seem to drive around cities collecting all sorts of private data on people's personal/home Wifi setups (like username:password), Google's apparent explanation/excuse was that the collection of Wifi data was "completely accidental", and a "the result of a mistake made by one engineer". The story then gets all weird, because Google refused to hand over requested internal emails to aid the investigation, and also refused to give up the name of the "one engineer" who supposedly "OK'd the Wifi sniffing". The real story seems to be that Google once again "went way too far" in trying to collect "useful data", then made up a seriously silly excuse about some engineer making a "mistake", and personal Wifi data being collected as a result. (How on earth does a "mistake" enable a StreetView Car to suddenly collect detailed Wifi hotspot data? Wouldn't the car need to be purposely equipped with software and antennas capable of this, and also explicitly configured to do so?)

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694769)

It's actually a quite understandable mistake: "Gee, sending these cars around is expensive. We just want MAC info for geolocation, but what if we screw something up? If we have to revisit an area I'll get yelled at...best to just log everything and filter it out later"

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (5, Informative)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695071)

Even better than that, traffic logging is on by default in Kismet, the software they were using. It's more like they forgot to switch the option off.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695135)

Except they didn't do that. The document clearly states they didn't keep encrypted data packets and that the non encrypted data was viewed by engineers to see if it was useful info.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695189)

You are mistaken.

The FCC also noted that, according to the available evidence, Google only collected data from unecrypted WiFi networks, not encrypted ones, and that it never accessed or used the data.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695659)

The last section of page 13 clearly states Engineer Doe examined the payload data to help decide whether it might be useful.

The fact they discarded encrypted data means they didn't just grab it all and let it be sorted out latter on. They made a conscious decision about what to keep.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694773)

How on earth does a "mistake" enable a StreetView Car to suddenly collect detailed Wifi hotspot data? Wouldn't the car need to be purposely equipped with software and antennas capable of this, and also explicitly configured to do so?

The car was already equipped with software and antennas, apparently for building a database of open Wifi hotspots. This was not the problem. It was the accidental collection of payload, in particular, unencrypted payload, which was the mistake (and the problem.)

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (0)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694775)

also, wouldn't they have noticed their mistake when their street view payload was an OM larger than they expected?

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (1)

SnowZero (92219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695965)

Keep in mind what else was on the disk:
    (1) High-resolution panoramic photos, taken every 10 feet or so.
    (2) Truncated Wifi packets collected along the same path.
Given the size of #1, which can fill up hard disks every drive, it's pretty easy to miss a few MB from #2.

When you operate fleets of 10s of thousands of machines, 1T of data is like a 100KB file on your personal computer. Would you go investigate every time your disk usage is 0.01% higher than expected?

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694869)

They did equip the cars with software and antennas to collect hotspot data. It was supposed to only collect basic data such as mac addresses and ssids (helpful for statistics and assisted geolocating), but it was mistakenly configured to also collect traffic from sniffing in promiscuous mode. I believe that it being an accident is perfectably reasonable.

And I personally believe it shouldn't be wrong to do. Sure, it was data they couldn't use, but it /was/ broadcasted on public air waves.

Also, no one would have even known if Google themselves hadn't said they accidentally collected the data. They could have just purged that data, but instead they did the Right Thing and reported the accident. Now they're paying the consequences of disclosure, instead of being a good normal company and saying nothing.

Just remember, if you frak up, cover it up instead of admitting your mistakes.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (3, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695001)

Wifi sniffing is what you have to do to get Mac Addresses and SSID's for Geolocation, as well as any sort of WiFi related work these days (Thanks, Dumb Bastards who turn off SSID broadcast!). At core, that's all Google was collecting, a basic WiFi sniff. I have to do it all the time if I want to figure out what jerk is invisibly camping the section of spectrum I'm using. And in classic Google fashion, they probably figured they could sort through and filter out the data they needed back at Google Central, rather than doing it in-car.

Honestly, the most shocking thing is the public's ignorance of the technology they use every day.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695249)

Wifi sniffing is what you have to do to get Mac Addresses and SSID's for Geolocation, as well as any sort of WiFi related work these days (Thanks, Dumb Bastards who turn off SSID broadcast!). At core, that's all Google was collecting, a basic WiFi sniff. I have to do it all the time if I want to figure out what jerk is invisibly camping the section of spectrum I'm using. And in classic Google fashion, they probably figured they could sort through and filter out the data they needed back at Google Central, rather than doing it in-car.

Do you have any evidence to suggest that's the case? Because their official story is that they didn't intend to store payload data, and it was stored only because that's the default for kismet and nobody thought to change it.

Certainly the data would need processed at Google Central in either case, to resolve all sightings of a given BSSID (possibly by different cars on nearby roads) to a single centroid approximating the AP location, but I see no benefit to wasting HDD space on data you know you don't need, and no cost to filtering it out other than remembering to add or uncomment a hidedata=true line in kismet.conf file.

While I'm not taking Google's word as gospel here, in the absence of contrary evidence, I find their explanation of an oversight more reasonable than your explanation of a conscious decision.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (1)

galaxia26 (918378) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695607)

One would also think that collecting this sort of data using a reliable GPS driven system like the StreetView cars would make Google's Geolocation Database respond with rough location estimates faster than their cell phone operating system's GPS can acquire and triangulate an accurate location. When I'd first seen this article it seemed as if having the streetview cars collect the wifi data was to make Androids Geolocation services much faster and more accurate.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695931)

Yes, that's exactly what the BSSID (aka MAC) & SSID data is for -- the payload data (which is what had privacy implications, and they claim not to have meant to collect) doesn't help with that at all.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695009)

If I was google, I'd refuse as well unless mandated by a court order for the same reason you should never talk to police: only bad can come of you volunteering information to someone whose job is to incriminate you.

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695603)

LOL...WAR driving is accidental....yeah!!! So is hacking, war dialing, breaking and entering, dealing crack...etc

Re:Google's excuse is a bit weak... (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695985)

I'm sorry but if you stand in your front yelling into your cell phone, and I'm driving by and hear a bit of your yelling, is that eavesdropping?

same goes for leaving your wifi open and broadcasting with enough strength to be visible on the public road!

I fail to see why wardriving should be any more illegal than driving down the road with my windows open.

Will probably pay the fine (2)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694689)

It's likely to be less costly than an appeal, and they can finally put it behind them.

Makes sense... maybe (2)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694827)

Assuming Google did engage in this supposed act then I think the fine is legitimate, and quite small. At the same time if this is just a way for somebody to cover their ass at the FCC for launching a dead-end investigation then it is totally bogus. Hard to know for sure with the info we have.

Re:Makes sense... maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695379)

"hard to know for sure with the info we have." are you new to the internet? You're supposed to choose a side (at random usually works,) imply malevolent intentions, and propose unreasonable responses. when you break this social contract you risk changing the entire tenor of the conversation and pretty soon someone's invading Poland.

This is just a face saving move by the FCC. (2)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694871)

Obviously Google is not going to fight a $25,000 fine. That's just pocket change to them. This is just the FCC trying to save face, so they can come away from this saying they did accomplish something, when in fact, they accomplished nothing but wasting time and energy.

It's not money that Google needs to worry about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695049)

...is the continuous erosion of their brand due to their arrogant and incompetent managers. I'm talking about assholes like Vic Gundotra, Any Rubin and David Drummond here. The former two have been told many times during internal tests of products that those changes or choices (Real Names) were plain wrong and directly against Google's users, yet they decided to completely ignore them and go ahead with the launches.

The Drummond asshole is mentioned above as he is the one responsible for the latest privacy changes, and the one who is ultimately responsible for what happened in this story. It is because of these people that I no longer use Google products outside of work and I always recommend alternatives to Google services when a friend asks.

--
Disclaimer: I work for TAGA (The Arrogant Google Assholes)

Not encrypted networks? I wonder why... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695057)

The FCC also noted that, according to the available evidence, Google only collected data from unencrypted WiFi networks, not encrypted ones

That hardly seems a reason to cut Google any slack. It's not exactly a judgement call.

Re:Not encrypted networks? I wonder why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695153)

Because they knew there was no practical point to keeping it. It kinda blows the whole accident idea really.

Oh, Slashdot (1)

toddmbloom (1625689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695421)

Never thought I'd see the day were you defended a pretty vile abuse of power by Google, just because it's the hipster thing to do these days to fawn over Google.

Re:Oh, Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695611)

Ya, it's not like they sabotaged companies, stole code and IP, became a patent troll and are convicted monopolists.

Re:Oh, Slashdot (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696009)

what power abuse? the owners of these wifi points were shouting into the street without using code words, whats wrong with listening while driving by?

Re:Oh, Slashdot (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696153)

erm... even the summary says there's nothing wrong with that.

impossible burden (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695545)

Google will have a hard time paying this exorbitant fine.

Dog Wants Bone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39695621)

The FCC got whipped. They want some respect. It seems to me that delaying tactics and the like are part of mounting a defence against a false allegation. By the way who will pay the defence expenses for the false accusations. Shouldn't the parties that made the allegations pay expenses and for damages to Google's public image?
              It's like the crack whore who falsely accused the athletes at Duke causing them all kinds of grief and expenses. Why isn't she doing life for falsely accusing all those young men of rape? Now for every job interview for the rest of their lives the question "Have you been arrested? must be answered yes. The next question is for what. Rape! Good luck on that job interview.

Good for google. (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39695677)

Good for google

All the feds wanted was to use the wifi incident as an excuse to get the data in question for themselves.

Translation (1)

ProfanityHead (198878) | more than 2 years ago | (#39696119)

they want to fine the company $25,000 because it 'deliberately impeded and delayed the investigation.

Translation:
Google has so much cash we can fine them for anything and they will pay it.

let's see... what would happen it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39696277)

i impeded a federal investigation? oh, that's right! not one day of jail time!

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