THE IDENTITY of a Google engineer who intercepted personal data from WiFi networks while driving Street View cars has been uncovered.
A former state investigator has named the Google employee - previously known as Engineer Doe - as Marius Milner, a programmer with a background in telecommunications.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began its investigation of Street View cars 17 months ago after it emerged that the cars were intercepting data from unsecured WiFi networks, including emails and passwords, without any internal privacy oversight.
Both Google and the FCC had declined to identify the engineer, who had been hired by the internet search giant due to his reputation in the field of WiFi networking. But Google had already exposed its employee's identity to state investigators back in 2010, hence the eventual leak.
The former state investigator who revealed Milner as the culprit has not been named but according to the New York Times (NYT), he spoke on the condition that he not be identified because he was "not authorised to speak".
The NYT said Milner's Linkedin web page had listed his occupation as "hacker". Under the category "Specialties" his entry reportedly read, "I know more than I want to about Wi-Fi." Such details are now not listed on the profile, or at least, are hidden from public view..
The online business profile does still detail however that Milner is a past employee at communications and computer networking companies Lucent Technologies and Avaya before joining Google in 2003.
The FCC's report on the investigation said, "Google tapped Engineer Doe [now identified as Milner], to design Street View's code for locating wireless hot spots."
Interestingly, Milner's Linkedin entry details how he created a program called "Netstumbler", of which an earler version is apparently "the world's first usable 'Wardriving' application for Windows". Those unfamiliar with "Wardriving" will learn that the FCC's report describes it as "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". Google reportedly refused to comment on any of this information.
It emerged Monday that the FCC found that Milner had also told at least two colleagues about his plans to capture WiFi data, including a senior manager.
According to FCC's investigation, Milner sent the entire Street View team a document in 2006 describing how his software would collect such sensitive data. It was found that colleagues did not read it, did not notice the section about WiFi data, or did not remember it, although one senior manager gave the document "pre-approval".
The FCC recently closed its 17-month inquiry into the Street View project with a finding that Google broke no laws, but it fined the internet search outfit $25,000 because it claimed the firm had obstructed its investigation and "willfully and repeatedly violated Commission orders to produce certain information". µ