Google engineer at heart of WiFi controversy identified, report says

An unnamed “former state investigator” has revealed the identity of the Google engineer who wrote code to scoop up personal information from passing WiFi networks: his name is Marius Milner, according to a report from the New York Times.

A full version of the Federal Communications Commission report revealed Sunday that a Google engineer knowingly created software for Google Street View cars that collected personal information from passing WiFi networks.

The Times reported Monday that Milner directed reporters who visited his home to contact his lawyer. The lawyer, Martha Boersch, declined to comment to the newspaper.

Google declined to comment to The Post on the report. Milner and Boersch could not immediately be reached for comment.

Milner is a WiFi expert and the developer behind NetStumbler, a tool that detects WiFi networks, their signal strength and whether or not they are protected. It can also be used for “wardriving,” a term that describes the act of driving in a car and looking for WiFi networks — which some people use to map access points.

If Milner is the engineer referred to as Engineer Doe throughout the FCC report, he reportedly told Google officials on “at least two occasions” that the program was collecting payload data, The Washington Post reported. According to the report, the fact that the program collected payload data from networks was part of its design.

That is inconsistent with Google’s previous remarks; the company has said in past statements that it did not know that its cars were collecting this information and that it was accidental, The Washington Post reported.

The FCC fined Google $25,000 for impeding its investigation into the matter. On Thursday, Google said that it will pay the fine, though it disagrees with much of the agency’s report.

“While Google disagrees with the premise of the Notice and many of its factual recitals, Google has determined to pay the forfeiture proposed in the Notice in order to put this investigation behind it,” the company said in a statement given to The Post on Friday.

Related stories:

Google engineer told officials Street View cars were collecting personal data, FCC report says

Google fined by FCC for impeding Street View probe

FCC metes out light penalty for Google in Street View case

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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