Google Autocomplete Sued Over "Jewish" Suggestions; FCC Report Reveals Engineer Intentionally wrote Code to Capture Street View Payload Data

Google's autocomplete feature now facing another lawsuit filed in a French court related to Rupert Murdoch search query suggestions. In the lawsuit, where anti-discrimination group SOS Racisme has accused Google of the "creation of what is probably the greatest Jewish history file" ever.The claim is that Google's autocomplete feature is mislabeling celebrities, politicians, and other […]

Google's autocomplete feature now facing another lawsuit filed in a French court related to Rupert Murdoch search query suggestions. In the lawsuit, where anti-discrimination group SOS Racisme has accused Google of the "creation of what is probably the greatest Jewish history file" ever.

The claim is that Google's autocomplete feature is mislabeling celebrities, politicians, and other high-profile people by suggesting "Jew" or "Jewish" next to their names in possible search queries. These celebs include News Corp's Rupert Murdoch and actor Jon Hamm. As you can see above, a search for "rupert m…" suggests "Rupert Murdoch jewish" as its fourth option, reports Web Pro News.

When a Google user types "Rupert Murdoch," the search engine suggests they complete a search for "Rupert Murdoch Jewish."

On the webpage describing the autcomplete algorithm, Google states that the algorithm determines the autcomplete content without human intervention:

"Just like the web, the search queries presented may include silly or strange or surprising terms and phrases. While we always strive to algorithmically reflect the diversity of content on the web (some good, some objectionable), we also apply a narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, hate speech, and terms that are frequently used to find content that infringes copyrights."

Google Autocomplete suied over Rupert Murdoch realted search quries

French site La Cote reports (Google translation):

Numerous users of the first search engine from France and world are confronted daily with the association unsolicited and almost systematically the term 'Jew' with the names of those most prominent in the world of politics, media or business, "deplore these organizations."

google fcc report on street view probe shows a engineer intentionally wrote software code that captured payload data information

In another legal blog to Google, a report from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has accused Google of "knowingly" collecting households' Wi-Fi data, a practice the search giant has long argued happened by mistake during the design of its Street View service.

The FCC report points the finger at a rogue engineer who, it says, intentionally wrote software code that captured payload data information -- communication over the Internet including emails, passwords and search history -- from unprotected wireless networks, going beyond what Google says it intended. The engineer invoked his 5th Amendment right and declined to speak to the FCC.

But the FCC raises the question of whether engineers and managers on the Street View project did know -- or should have known -- that the data was being collected.

According to the FCC report: The engineer in question told two other engineers, including a senior manager, that he was collecting the payload data. He also gave the entire Street View team a copy of a document in October 2006 that detailed his work on Street View. In it, he noted that Google would be logging such data

FCC report cited a feasibility study into Street View by an unnamed Google engineer. "A typical concern might be that we are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they are doing," the engineer had warned.

His report also concluded that privacy discussions were needed with Google's product council. "That never happened," the FCC reported.

The FCC report concluded that Google had not breached U.S. wiretapping laws but sharply criticized the company for obstructing its investigations, fining it $25,000 in the process. In a response, Google accused the FCC of causing delays in the investigation as well.

The data collection occurred during Google's efforts to supplement its map service with shots taken by its fleet of Street View cars.

Google believed it would be possible to offer location services to its users by mapping local area networks and Wi-Fi hot spots, by a process known as "wardriving".

"We decided to voluntarily make the entire document available except for the names of individuals," a Google spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times. "While we disagree with some of the statements made in the document, we agree with the FCC's conclusion that we did not break the law. We hope that we can now put this matter behind us."

According to the report: The engineer in question considered privacy concerns but dismissed them because the vehicles would not be in proximity of "any given user for an extended period of time" and none of the data gathered would be presented to users of Google services in raw form. He did note as a "to do" item that he should discuss the matter with a product counsel.

On at least one occasion, the report says, the engineer reviewed the data to identify frequently visited websites. He thought it might be helpful in determining how much people were using Google search, so he asked a member of Google's search quality team who told him "it had no use or value," the report says. When he determined it had no value, he abandoned the idea.

Google has declined to identify the engineer.

Full FCC probe report: