Google is famously known for saying you can make money without doing evil. Aside from my belief this statement betrays an unspoken belief that most earning of money is inherently evil, good intentions are not enough.
The authority revealed that as well as collecting SSID information (the
network’s name) and MAC addresses (the number given to Wi-Fi devices such as a
router), Google had also been collecting payload data such as emails or web page
content being viewed.
“The independent audit of the Google system shows that the system used for
the Wi-Fi collection intentionally separated out unencrypted content (payload
data) of communications and systematically wrote this data to hard drives,” said
Simon Davis from Privacy International.
Google said the error came after a piece of experimental code written in 2006
was included in the software used by its Street View cars by mistake.
However, Davis says Google’s explanation “doesn’t add up”.
“This is complex code and it must have been given a budget and been overseen.
Google has asserted that all its projects are rigorously checked,” said
“It goes to the heart of a systematic failure of management and of duty of
I’m not going to say it could never happen at Microsoft but if my experience is any indication it would be a very, very safe bet.
I wrote the original code for an internal application used on Windows Mobile 6.x that has collected millions of SSIDs and BSSIDs (also known as MAC addresses). My officemate wrote the code that gathers the same information on Windows Phone 7. I know what we had to go through in terms of review by peers, lawyers, and management. Privacy was of paramount importance. There was never even a suggestion that connection traffic should be considered “fair game”. The information of the type Google is in trouble for storing on hard drives never even gets into RAM let alone is processed enough to hit persistent storage.
I’m not in a position to say that Google had evil intent but I have trouble imagining what they thought they could do with code that stored information gathered in that way that would not be considered “evil” or at least extremely unethical.