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Google staff knew of Street View data breach, finds FCC

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Google Street View car

© Rex Features

The Google engineer who created a programme that harvested personal data from Wi-Fi networks as part of the Street View project told at least two other colleagues, an official report has said.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s full report has been released by Google, after the US search giant was fined $25,000 earlier this month for hindering the lengthy probe into Street View.

While the FCC has cleared Google of breaking the law, it did find that one of the firm's engineers, referred to only as "engineer Doe", had written a computer programme capable of collecting data from people's unsecured home wireless networks.

The payload data, including emails and web browsing histories, was harvested as the Street View car photographed areas between 2008 and 2010.

According to the FCC's report, the engineer told two Google colleagues about the programme, including one senior manager.

"Engineer Doe specifically told two engineers working on the project, including a senior manager, about collecting payload data," the agency said in its report.

"Engineer Doe intended to collect, store and review payload data for possible use in other Google projects."

The report added: "The record also shows that Google's supervision of the Wi-Fi data collection project was minimal...indeed, it appears that no-one at the company carefully reviewed the substance of Engineer Doe's software code or the design document."

However, as Engineer Doe had asserted his right not to testify to the investigation, the report said that "significant factual questions bearing... to the Street View project cannot be answered on the record of this investigation".

Google said that it released the report as it wanted to "put the matter behind us".

"We decided to voluntarily make the entire document available except for the names of individuals," the company said.

"While we disagree with some of the statements made in the document, we agree with the FCC's conclusion that we did not break the law. We hope that we can now put this matter behind us."

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