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Google Patents Privacy Wireless Networking Your Rights Online

Data Engineer In Google Case Is Identified 186

Posted by timothy
from the under-the-bus dept.
theodp writes "Meet Engineer Doe. A NY Times report has identified Marius Milner as the software engineer at the center of the uproar over a Google project that used Wi-Fi sniffing Google Street View cars to collect e-mail and other personal data from potentially millions of unsuspecting people. Milner, creator of the wardriving software NetStumbler, referred questions to his lawyer. Google declined to comment. A patent search shows the USPTO awarded Google and Milner a patent in June 2011 for protecting Internet users from 'hackers and other ne'er-do-wells [who] may seek to tap into communications on a network.'"
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Data Engineer In Google Case Is Identified

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  • ftfy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @09:15AM (#39856163)

    Data Engineer In Google Case Is Identified

    Fall Guy In Google Case Is Identified.
    FTFY

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How could he be the "fall guy" if they kept his name anonymous?

      • by khipu (2511498)

        Well, I don't think it happened in this case, but pretending to keep someone's name anonymous and then leaking it is a pretty common strategy in politics.

    • by RealGene (1025017)
      I thinks it's exceptionally clever of Google that they found a wifi hacker with street cred to write the sniffer, so that they could be shocked! SHOCKED! to find wifi sniffing was taking place in their establishment.
      • I thinks it's exceptionally clever of Google that they found a wifi hacker with street cred to write the sniffer,

        Dude... there's nothing exceptionally clever about it. There are dozens of sniffers out there that are easy to configure and use. The fact that Google hired a guy who wrote one isn't clever; It's business. Clever is leaving this guy twisting in the wind, with no future job prospects, no stock options, and only a few months' unemployment to coast on before beginning his new career in retail -- thus protecting the Google brand identity and slogan "Do No Evil". Determining whether or not ruining someone's life

        • Now a former state investigator involved in another inquiry into Street View has identified Engineer Doe. The former investigator said he was Marius Milner ... The former state investigator spoke on the condition that he not be identified because he was not authorized to speak. ... Although the F.C.C. declined to identify the engineer, a footnote in the full text of its report said Google told the agency the identity of Engineer Doe “only because it had disclosed his name to state investigators on December 17, 2010.” Google declined to comment.

          That's clearly Google's fault. They shouldn't have told state investigators ANYTHING. I mean, they got reprimanded for "obstructing investigation" or somesuch anyways, what does one more bit held back matter?

        • by khipu (2511498)

          What kind of twisted world view do you have in which corporate employees are transformed into mindless minions that have to obey every command? As an employee, you still have moral and legal responsibilities. If he had thought that this was the wrong thing to do, he could have said "no". In fact, the way Google works, he probably could have said "no" without consequences.

          I think what rather happened is that he thought this was an OK thing to do. Good for him! I hope he makes that argument stick, because

          • Re:ftfy (Score:4, Interesting)

            by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @10:35AM (#39857039)

            What kind of twisted world view do you have in which corporate employees are transformed into mindless minions that have to obey every command?

            My 'twisted' world view is called 'capitalism'. And yes, if you want to stay employed, you do what the person signing your paycheck tells you to do.

            As an employee, you still have moral and legal responsibilities.

            Yes, the moral responsibility to keep eating, paying the rent so you can keep a roof over your head, etc. It's very easy to act all indignant that someone would choose to eat food instead of morals; It's a lot harder when you're the one choosing between keeping your job, or losing your car, house, family, etc.

            In fact, the way Google works, he probably could have said "no" without consequences.

            The evidence does not agree with your 'world view'. Also, although cliche, I have to say "Citation needed." You haven't claimed you work for google, nor provided any citation or information that might suggest Google is somehow above its fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders; Because before this guy got fired, the Board most certainly looked at the issue and determined one man's future was not worth Google getting raked over the coals in a PR disaster. To suggest that they would take the moral high ground on that is preposterous: All businesses react the same way to a perceived threat -- they jettison it and distance themselves from responsibility for it as quickly as possible.

            I think what rather happened is that he thought this was an OK thing to do. Good for him! I hope he makes that argument stick, because I think he's right and ...

            ... And that'll be the last time he gets a job in this industry. What's the first thing a prospective employer does these days? Type your name into a search engine and see what it comes up with. And right there, as the #1 result for the rest of his life, will be "Caused PR disaster." Whether that's true or not is irrelevant; Future employers won't take the risk. Taking the moral high ground is not without its consequences; That is why so few people these days do it.

            , in that people may come to realize that we shouldn't have useless and ineffective legal restrictions on recording publicly broadcast data.

            I'm sure he'll take great comfort in raising public awareness on this very important issue, while he's asking you if you'd like fries with that.

            • by khipu (2511498)

              My 'twisted' world view is called 'capitalism'. And yes, if you want to stay employed, you do what the person signing your paycheck tells you to do.

              No, your world-view is Marxist because you view employees as little more than slaves. In a capitalist system, people change jobs when their employer doesn't treat them right. And Milner would have had no problems finding another job if he didn't want to record this data; skilled networking software developers are in high demand.

              The evidence does not agree with

              • No, your world-view is Marxist because you view employees as little more than slaves.

                Your red-baiting [wikipedia.org] will not work here, Sith Lord.

                • by khipu (2511498)

                  Your view of Milner is that he is exploited by his company, alienated from his work, and unable to change jobs because of a labor surplus. That is, you hold the classical Marxist view of labor; that's just an objective fact. If you didn't know that was Marxist, start doing your homework.

                  The capitalist view of labor is that it operates in a free market, so workers can negotiate fair wages, prefer their current work to the alternatives, and can change jobs if another job offers them a better overall value.

                  O

        • by RealGene (1025017)
          Sorry, forgot the "ironic" tag. The clever part is in finding the perfect fall guy, not the perfect coder.
  • If this guy is responsible for sneaking the phrase "hackers and other ne'er-do-wells" into an official legal document, I sort of like him already.

    In general though I don't see much reason to single him out, when it seems fairly clear (from what evidence is available) that this was a Google project, not a "rogue employee" acting against management's wishes. There are cases where I'd support individual employees being held accountable, but I'm not sure this rises to that level; whether this turns out to be ri

    • It all depends as to whether he added the code without permission from the higher ups.

      I must admit, it sounds to me like he's being turned into a sacrificial offering.
  • NetStumbler for Windows and MiniStumbler for Windows CE downloads are at: NetStumbler.com [netstumbler.com]

    Downloads are free but PayPal donations are accepted.
    • by Sipper (462582)

      NetStumbler for Windows and MiniStumbler for Windows CE downloads are at:
      NetStumbler.com [netstumbler.com]

      I've been told that the software that actually did the sniffing wasn't NetStumbler, but rather it was Kismet [kismetwireless.net]. I don't know the original source of who knows this firsthand though, so I can't verify this. However if this is true it's interesting, because it would mean A) Google was likely using a non-Windows system to do the wireless packet sniffing, B) the author of NetStumbler was using another sniffing utility to do the work rather than his own tool, which would be an interesting irony.

  • Idiots (Score:3, Interesting)

    by StoneyMahoney (1488261) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @09:32AM (#39856351)

    I guess it would be beyond expectation for someone to tell anyone complaining their data was "stolen" that they should have been pumping it into the local atmosphere for all to read without any encryption or other basic protection.

    Yeah, holding people accountable for their own idiotic actions would make too much sense. Beside, we make far too much money out of idiots who bought cool stuff with no clue how it actually works - me especially, a lot of my tech support clients use Macs.

    • Take note kids, this is what happens when you post dehydrated.

    • by Desler (1608317)

      I guess it would be beyond expectation for someone to tell anyone complaining their data was "stolen" that they should have been pumping it into the local atmosphere for all to read without any encryption or other basic protection.

      Most people didn't set up their home network and probably had expected that it wasn't publicly accessible. In most cases, these people had their WiFi setup done by whoever came from their ISP to set it up. They had an expectation of privacy. This is really no different than the fact that you can't just record phone calls without consent either.

      Yeah, holding people accountable for their own idiotic actions would make too much sense.

      Like holding Google accountable for someone purposefully going around sniffing people's traffic?

    • by Bigby (659157)

      I'm going to open a radio station and broadcast a private station. Every couple minutes it will say "this is a private feed and it is illegal for you to listen to it without permission". Then I will sue everyone that does...

      Profit!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @09:38AM (#39856413)

    Posting anonymous so this will not haunt me forever through the net (unless you are tracking me already har har).

    Has anybody actually been hurt? Because, uh, I'm just asking. I'm all for privacy but I don't see anyone poring over my data in this case. So has anybody been hurt? Where is the victim?

    Or are we talking about hurting the feelings of those poor electrons that used to mean something, however fleeting, before being vacuumed up by a hateful engineer?

    And you know every atom whose state you have ever modified has certain inalienable rights..

    I am pretty damned cynical about big corporations and those who presume to rule them, but there are plenty of white collar criminals in power in America and I have yet to see any at Google.

    And for your info I think Sergey's and Larry's excellent space adventure shows me enough where those guys stand. I prefer to support Google and Man's Future In Space. The rest of the establishment, their cops and politicos and bastards who talk out the sides of their mouths, the warhawks and smack sellers, and all the self righteous fucks who turn a blind eye to killing, and the fucktards who find a moral pinnacle somewhere in there, they can all go off and fuck themselves until they die.

    As for Milner? Well he is either completely innocent or a geek who has been hypnotized until robotic. Happens every day in America. There are one thousand other cases more worthy of prosecution.

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      Would you have preferred that they waited to deal with this after someone actually got hurt?

      Google's not going to go out of business here, and even those who believe this was less of a mistake and more of a "project", don't think that it was necessarily going to be used as more than some sort of research into something else.

      That said, Google has set the bar for itself, and it needs to be consistent about it. The company needs to actually enforce its core values or they are going to be seen as either a good

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Thanks for replying though I was AC.

        I think you are correct on all points. However I object to the media fest and attempt to destroy this man's career.

        Perhaps Google needs to be taught a lesson certainly the words of Schmidt in the past indicate callousness to privacy although that is probably moderate compared to most corporate CEOs. So yes Google cannot afford to take both high and low ground at the same time. Though being arbiter of morality might appear to be bad for their bottom line in the short term.

  • Here's a choice tidbit from the article:

    Google long maintained that the engineer was solely responsible for this aspect of the project, which resulted in official investigations, some still unresolved, in more than a dozen countries. But a complete version of the F.C.C.’s report, released by Google on Saturday, has cast doubt on that explanation, saying that the engineer informed at least one superior and that seven engineers who worked on the code were all in a position to know what was going on.

    The F.C.C. report also had Engineer Doe spelling out his intentions quite clearly in his initial proposal. Managers of the Street View project said they never read it.

    Depicting his actions as the work of a rogue “requires putting a lot of dots together,” Mr. Milner said enigmatically Sunday before insisting again he had no comment. He said he was closely following the news reports on the issue.

    If that's all to be believed, Milner reported on what he was doing, and sent it to his boss(es). They opted to "not read" the report. If at least six other engineers were in a position to know, then this sounds more like a "no, don't put this in writing or tell us what you're doing" situation than a rogue employee. If bosses aren't responsible for their employees, what are they there for?

    • If this were anyone other than Google, Slashdot group think would be shouting "incompetent company!" as loud as they could...

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @10:40AM (#39857099)

      If bosses aren't responsible for their employees, what are they there for?

      To provide individual profit without individual responsibility. Unless, of course, profit is threatened, in which case sacrificing an individual is a reasonable response. See also: The reason most people over the age of 30 are fired. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone blubber "But I did what they asked me to..." on the way out the door. I've worked corporate jobs long enough to know that when someone asks you to do something you think might backfire, you smile, agree, and work as slowly as possible on the project while working as quickly as possible at finding another job and getting your name off the reports. Corporations will not hesitate to throw their employees under the bus -- afterall, it's not like you're unique or important... there's fifty more just like you a phone call away.

      That is the raisin de etre for a corporation: Individual profit without individual responsibility.

    • by Wheatie (598715)
      If I were a shareholder, this sort of loose operations control would seriously worry me. I know that Google was at least partially built on letting creative people run off and do what interests them, but there also needs to be a decent level of oversight and guidance to ensure that employees don't inadvertently (or even intentionally) get themselves into legal troubles.
    • Just like Rupert, Google is claiming 'We had no idea what our minions were doing; our job is merely to be wealthy.' #YeahRight
  • He said it was an add-on to study WiFi use around the world as part of his 20% project. I dont know if you have report or get approval for your 20% projects at Google or elsewhere. But after this is may be a good idea to have some supervision.

    It would be like adding some metric measurement software to what we ship customers. Then have that send back these data. Our customers may be unsure then if their personal data in this software is being compromised.
  • by khipu (2511498) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @10:14AM (#39856793)

    If you broadcast information publicly and without sufficient encryption, the public can listen in and record it.

    Apart from the question of who is right in the abstract, punishing Google or other people isn't going to deter anybody who actually wants to do you harm, since passive listening is pretty much impossible to detect. What we might restrict and punish is the use of such information, for example rebroadcasting it, using it in legal proceedings without a prior warrant, or reselling it.

    The real question we should be asking is how people are punished that broadcast private information (e.g., hospitals that use unencrypted networks).

    • by Solandri (704621)
      I tend to fall on Google's side on this (because other companies do the same thing or worse; Google only got "caught" because they did the honest thing and publicly admitted their mistake). But placing blame entirely on people who fail to encrypt their wireless is going too far in Google's favor. If I don't lock the door to my house, yeah it's my fault if I get robbed. But that doesn't make the robbery legal.

      If you find a neighbor's wifi network is open, that doesn't give you carte blanche to use it a
      • by khipu (2511498)

        But placing blame entirely on people who fail to encrypt their wireless is going too far in Google's favor. If I don't lock the door to my house, yeah it's my fault if I get robbed. But that doesn't make the robbery legal.

        But we have a long-standing principle that if you use the public airwaves, people have a right to listen. Why do you want to change that principle and suddenly criminalize behavior that's been legal for as long as we have had radio?

        If you find a neighbor's wifi network is open, that doe

  • May we burn her?

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