FCC fines Google US$25,000 over Street View

16 Apr 2012

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Google Street View

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Internet search giant Google is to pay US$25,000 for collecting personal information without permission and an impeding an investigation.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Google late last week over its collection of wireless network data for its Street View service, which allows users explore places around the globe through 360-degree street-level imagery.

The FCC claims Google not only collected the data without permission between 2007 and 2010, but then deliberately did not co-operate with the FCC’s investigation.

A Google car equipped with Wi-Fi had gathered unencrypted data from internet users while it travelled around the US and Europe capturing data for Street View. The data gathered included emails and passwords.

The FCC’s investigation remained unresolved, the New York Times reported, because a Google engineer leading the project declined to speak about it, citing US Fifth Amendment rights, which protects the right to silence of someone the government has accused of a crime.

Google had deemed the collection of data from the networks as a mistake, and suggested it was down to an error by those in charge of the information collection, the Guardian reported. But according to the New York Times, the engineer said others at Google must have known of what was happening.

Google said in a statement it had turned over information to the FCC and challenged the finding that it was unco-operative, the Guardian reported.

"As the FCC notes in their report, we provided all the materials the regulators felt they needed to conclude their investigation and we were not found to have violated any laws," Google said in a statement.

"We disagree with the FCC’s characterisation of our co-operation in their investigation and will be filing a response."

The collection of this data sparked investigations worldwide. In Ireland, the Data Protection Commission told Google to delete the Street View data on discovering the search giant had accidentally gathered unencrypted information.

Tina held senior editorial positions at daily newspapers in Ottawa and Toronto

editorial@siliconrepublic.com