Last summer, word got out that Google, while trying to compile a complete list of Wi-Fi hotspots for its Street View service in the late 2000s, may have also recorded user information of personal Wi-Fi networks. The Federal Communication Commission investigated the matter and has now published their findings, concluding that Google, as a company, did not intentionally gather the personal information. Instead, it was determined that a rogue employee, engineer Marius Milner, was solely responsible.
Milner, who describes himself as a “hacker” on LinkedIn—he even wrote, “I know more than I want to about Wi-Fi,” on his page—wrote code that recorded everything from emails to passwords and search history via unprotected networks accessed by Google’s Street View cars. His activities went unnoticed by Google due to its company-wide policy of letting high-level engineers pursue independent projects in their free time.
While Milner is set to face serious charges, Google faces only a slap on the wrist: a fine for obstruction of justice. According to the FCC, it couldn’t charge Google because there was no legal precedent. But by letting them off the hook, when will there ever be one?