Google Blames Rogue Software Engineer For Intercepted Data

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Google also now seems willing to turn over the intercepted data to European regulators after maintaining that the information should be destroyed, according to an interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt in the Financial Times.

Last month Google admitted that it inadvertently collected 600 GBs of data, including e-mails and Web addresses, about people’s online activities in more than 30 countries while building its Street View photo archive.

In the Financial Times interview published Thursday, Schmidt said the unplanned data collection occurred because a male software engineer at Google inserted unauthorized code into the Street View software system.

Schmidt said the engineer, whom he did not name, is now under investigation internally for his actions. The developer created the code while driving around the Stanford University campus checking for Wi-Fi connections.

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Schmidt said Google would engage an independent third party to conduct an audit of its Street View data collection practices and make the results of that investigation public.

“We screwed up. Let’s be very clear about that,” Schmidt is quoted by the Financial Times as saying.

Several European countries, including Germany and France, have threatened to launch criminal investigations into the data collection incident. Google has questioned whether it would be legal for the company to provide the collected data to government agencies. But in the interview Schmidt said the company would begin handing over the data to European regulators, starting with German, French and Spanish data protection authorities.