NEW YORK - At the center of the uproar over a Google project that scooped up personal data from potentially millions of unsuspecting people is the company software engineer who wrote the code.
Google has declined to identify the engineer, as has the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC recently closed its 17-month inquiry into Street View with a finding that Google broke no laws but had obstructed its investigation.
The agency also said it was unable to resolve all the issues it was considering because the engineer - whom it referred to in its report as Engineer Doe - cited his Fifth Amendment right and declined to talk.
Now a former state investigator involved in another inquiry into Street View has identified Engineer Doe. The former investigator said he was Marius Milner, a programmer with a background in telecommunications who is highly regarded in the field of Wi-Fi networking, essential to the project.
On his LinkedIn page, Milner lists his occupation as “hacker,’’ and under the category called “Specialties,’’ his entry reads, “I know more than I want to about Wi-Fi.’’
The former state investigator spoke on the condition that he not be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the matter. Although the FCC declined to identify the engineer, a footnote in the full text of its report said Google told the agency the identity of Engineer Doe “only because it had disclosed his name to state investigators on December 17, 2010.’’
Google declined to comment.
Milner, in a brief conversation on his doorstep in Palo Alto, Calif., Sunday night, said he could not answer any questions. He recommended calling a lawyer, Martha Boersch, who he said represented him.
Boersch declined to comment Monday.
The Street View project was an ambitious plan to photograph and map the world’s streets that also involved gathering information about local wireless networks to improve location-based searches.
A Google engineer went a step further, however, the FCC report said, and included code to collect unencrypted data sent from homes by computers - e-mails and Internet searches - as specially equipped cars drove by. That data collection occurred from 2007 to 2010.
Google long maintained that the engineer was solely responsible for this aspect of the project, which resulted in official investigations, some still unresolved, in more than a dozen countries. But a complete version of the FCC’s report, released by Google on Saturday, has cast doubt on that explanation, saying that the engineer informed at least one superior and that seven engineers who worked on the code were all in a position to know what was going on.