Photograph by Pedro Ladeira/AFP/Getty Images.
Things aren't looking so great for Google on the privacy front. A 25-page FCC report released Sunday concludes that at least two colleagues of the Google engineer who designed the company's popular Street View maps program knew that the cars collected personal data as they drove around the world between 2008 and 2010.
"For more than two years, Google's Street View cars collected names, addresses, telephone numbers, URLs, passwords, email, text messages, medical records, video and audio files, and other information from internet users in the United States," according to the report. The cars, which collected the data through unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, also collected similar data in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, and other countries, the Guardian reports.
The Wall Street Journal explains that while the report strengthens Google’s case that it was a sole employee who engineered the activity, it also suggests that the Internet giant could have moved faster to put an end to the practice. The engineer told at least two colleagues, including a senior manager, about the controversial plans in 2007 and 2008, but the practice continued unabated for two years after the internal disclosures, according to the report. The engineer has invoked the fifth amendment in the case and remains unnamed.
Google sent out the cars starting in 2008 to take photos of streets so Google Maps users could see a 360-degree "street view" of the images of the locations. The data has since been used in the development of Google products, such as GPS location for the company’s Android software. The collection of data through individuals’ unsecured Wi-Fi networks, however, wasn’t generally known at the time.
Google had originally denied that it was collecting private data through Wi-Fi networks back in April 2010, but reversed its stance a month later. You can read more about the FCC investigation over at the Wall Street Journal.