Google engineer behind Street View Wi-Fi probe outed

1 May 2012

Pictured above: a Google Street View trike on the streets of Dublin in 2010 with some of the sophisticated equipment Google used to gather data on board

Engineer Doe, the mysterious Google engineer who wrote the code that allowed Google’s Street View cars to gather private Wi-Fi data that raised privacy hackles in countries worldwide has been identified.

The engineer managed to keep his identity secret during a 17-month investigation by the Federal Communications Commission.

The investigation concluded that Google broke no laws but had obstructed its investigation.

According to the New York Times, a former investigator for a separate investigation into Street View has unmasked Engineer Doe as Marius Milner, a coder and a Wi-Fi expert.

Street View is one of Google’s most popular products and provides a 360-degree view of streets in villages, towns and cities across the world.

War driving and Street View

Compiling the Street View involved Google cars with cameras and a variety of other equipment driving around gathering the imagery.

But it emerged that Google’s Street View vehicles were gathering more than just photos; they were also gleaning information from Wi-Fi networks in homes and offices ostensibly to improve location-based searches.

Countries like Germany and Korea were up in arms after it emerged that the equipment was gathering unencrypted data sent from homes by computers such as emails and internet searches between 2007 and 2010.

Milner, who previously worked for Lucent Technologies and Avaya, is understood to have created a war driving programme called NetStumbler for Windows. War driving involves travelling around accessing wireless hot spots. He has worked at Google since 2003.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years