SAN FRANCISCO: Google's harvesting of emails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in Australia and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report.
The report, prepared by the US Federal Communications Commission after a 17-month investigation of Google's Street View project, was released, heavily redacted, two weeks ago. Although it found that Google had not violated any laws, the agency said Google had obstructed the inquiry and fined the company $US25,000. On Saturday, Google released a version of the report with only employees' names redacted.
The full version (PDF/4.5MB) draws a portrait of a company where an engineer can easily embark on a project to gather personal emails and web searches of potentially hundreds of millions of people as part of his or her unscheduled work time, and where privacy concerns are shrugged off.
The payload data was secretly collected between 2007 and 2010 as part of Street View, a project to photograph streetscapes over much of the civilised world. When the program was being designed, the report says, it included the following 'to do' item: "Discuss privacy considerations with Product Counsel."