US calls off federal investigation into Google Street View

28 Oct 2010

The US Federal Trade Commission has closed an investigation into Google Street View, after Google said it would address issues that saw its Street View cars accidently collect data over Wi-Fi networks.

The issue was first discovered by Google in response to the data protection authority in Germany. They found that the software on the cars had been collecting data over unsecure wireless networks.

The discovery has sparked investigations into the service worldwide, including within Germany and Spain.

The FTC however, has closed their investigation. In a staff closing letter, the FTC urged the importance of internal review processes, which they stated “were not adequate” for the accidental breach of privacy from Google Street cars.

“These review processes are necessary to identify risks to consumer privacy posed by the collection and use of information that is personally identifiable or reasonably linkable to a specific consumer,” said David C Vladeck, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the letter.

“For any such information, Google should develop and implement reasonable procedures, including collecting information only to the extent necessary to fulfil a business purpose, disposing of the information no longer necessary to accomplish that purpose, and maintaining the privacy and security of information collected and stored.”

However, they said they have noted that Google has announced improvements to these processes to fix these issues, such as appointing a director for privacy and adding privacy training for staff.

They also acknowledged that Google will have a privacy review process when designing new projects and will delete all the data procured from these networks.

“This assurance is critical to mitigate the potential harm to consumers from the collection of payload data,” said Vladeck.

“Because of these commitments, we are ending our inquiry into this matter at this time.”