Google's Wi-Fi spygate troubles have only just begun

Google probably believed it was putting its Wi-Fi data slurping controversy behind it. It was wrong

Google probably thought it was tossing water on that smoldering Wi-Fi spying controversy by releasing the full version of that FCC report a few days ago -- turns out it was gasoline instead. Now Google is looking at a raging inferno that could engulf the company.

In mid-April, after the FCC released a heavily redacted version of its report with entire pages inexplicably blacked out, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for the full monty. Roughly two weeks later, Google released its own version of the same report with only the names of its employees redacted. The company did it on a Saturday, apparently hoping the blogosphere would be too hung over to notice, and that it would keep EPIC and others from finding out anything that wasn't in the report.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Cringely isn't impressed with Google's games with lies, spies, and our Wi-Fi. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]

Boy, were they wrong. The L.A. Times' Jessica Guynn jumped on the story, followed shortly by everyone else. It took the New York Times just two days to unveil the real identity of Engineer Doe, the alleged "rogue employee" who used the 20 percent do-your-own-thing time Google gives its developers to come up with gStumbler, the data-slurping software at the heart of this mess.

His name? Marius Milner, better known to many geeks as the creator of NetStumbler, the original wardriving software. Milner, who declined to speak to the FCC, also declined to speak to the Times, not surprisingly. But I doubt he'll be able to stay silent for very long.

Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group that has had Google in its crosshairs for years, jumped on this with both feet, filing another FOIA request [PDF] for all documents related to the FCC's investigation. European regulators who had concluded their investigations of Google's Wi-Fi spying may soon reopen them, now that they know how bogus Google's "rogue employee" defense truly is. Heck, even the U.S. Congress may open up hearings, if only to further demonstrate its complete ignorance of any technology more advanced than the rotary phone.

Any hope Google may have had that it could put its Wi-Fi spygate problems in the rearview mirror and drive on has just hit a tree.

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