Google is the new Peeping Tom

They're peeking in your windows, listening at your door, and capturing everything you do on your WiFi network. But heck, it's all "public" information, right?


Want to rent a really creepy movie tonight? Try Michael Powell’s 1960 classic Peeping Tom. It’s extremely disturbing and (according to Kevin Williamson of Scream fame, at least) the original slasher film.

When they eventually make an honest movie about Google, it will probably look a lot like that. Late last week Google made public an FCC report on its WiFi spying activities that bears similarities between Powell’s stalker protagonist Carl Boehm and Google’s Street View vans.

When the FCC released the original report two weeks ago, it was heavily redacted with entire pages blacked out. After the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed an Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the original report, Google released a less redacted version of it – blacking out only the names of Google employees mentioned within.

Reading the less redacted version is a revelation. When the Google Street View vans drove all around the world slurping up 600GB worth of emails, phone numbers, passwords, chat sessions and Web histories from unencrypted wireless networks, that was no accident. It was by design.

And though the report points the finger at one man – an unnamed employee called Engineer Doe who refused to cooperate with the FCC investigation, citing his Fifth Amendment rights – it’s extremely clear that several Google employees knew about it, despite claiming otherwise.

According to the FCC report, Engineer Doe even asked Google’s search team if they could use any of the data his software had siphoned up. They apparently said no.

peeping tom

flickr/D. Stenvers

Google’s penalty for lying and stonewalling the FCC? A whopping $25,000 fine, which they may well appeal.

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