Time just flat gets the story wrong, buying Google’s assertion that it was an accident (emphasis mine):
But it turned out that Google went much further than that, vacuuming up snippets of browser history and email data. The company explained that when the Street View program launched, the team inadvertently included code in their software that “sampled all categories of publicly broadcast WiFi data,” even though the project leaders did not want the more comprehensive data. As soon as Google discovered the practice, it grounded the Street View cars and separated and secured the data on its network.
Again, Milner designed the software to do what Time says Google did inadvertently.
TechCrunch also misses:
In 2010, Google was accused of collecting some private Wi-Fi payload data while its Street View vehicles were on the road and taking images in the U.S. and Europe. Google first denied that this ever happened, but the company later confirmed that this was indeed the case, though it also argued that this was “a mistake.” In 2006, Google argued, one of its engineers developed some code to collect this data for an experimental project and this code somehow found its way into the Street View code, as well.
Google argued that, but it was later shown to be false by the FCC, something TechCrunch doesn’t note.
Google has long said that Street View’s collection of personal information was inadvertent and has apologized.
Jeff Jarvis, author of glowing book called What Would Google Do and another book that criticizes the “panic over privacy,” Public Parts, didn’t much like the lede story in The New York Times the day after the settlement, firing off a post at his BuzzMachine blog accusing the paper of something called “technobias.”
Now, you can certainly argue about whether this story deserved the placement it got, and Jarvis is right on to criticize the Times for this quote from an anti-Google shill, which lands in the fifth paragraph of the piece:
“Google puts innovation ahead of everything and resists asking permission,” said Scott Cleland, a consultant for Google’s competitors and a consumer watchdog whose blog maintains a close watch on Google’s privacy issues
Look, you’re not really a “consumer watchdog” if you’re on the payroll of Microsoft and the telecom giants. The Times shouldn’t have quoted Cleland so high in the story—and maybe not at all.
But other Jarvis criticisms are way off.
The cars recorded whatever data was passing on these — again — *open* and *public* networks, which can be easily closed.
Just because the networks weren’t password-protected doesn’t mean their owners wanted Google driving by in a car and vacuuming up their URLs, emails, and bank account passwords to see whether they might be of corporate interest.
And here’s how Jarvis explains the backstory:
Stupidly and for no good reason, the cars also recorded other data passing on *open* wifi networks. But that data was incredibly limited: just what was transmitted in the random few seconds in which the Google car happened to pass once by an address. There is no possible commercial use, no rationally imagined nefarious motive, no goldmine of Big Data to be had. Nonetheless, privacy’s industrial-regulator complex jumped into action to try to exploit the incident. But even Germany — the rabid dog of privacy protectors — dropped the case.
But the FCC found that Google “intended to collect, store and review” the data “to be analyzed offline for use in other initiatives.” And Germany dropped the criminal case, while France levied a record fine and Norway and others investigated and fined Google too.
Finally, Jarvis actually questions whether Google is a “serial privacy violator,” as the Times quotes unnamed critics calling it. But that’s hardly unreasonable for the paper to do, particularly since it quotes Consumer Watchdog (not the shill) essentially saying the same thing.