FCC Targets Google Over Wi-Fi Data Collection

Google escaped an FTC investigation without incurring any penalties, but now they face a new investigation from the Federal Communications Commission over data they collected off unencrypted wireless networks with their Street View cars, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The FCC confirmed the investigation began earlier this year after privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center sent a complaint in May. Google has admitted to collecting the personal data, including e-mails and passwords, but called it a mistake.

If Google is found to have intentionally violated laws to prevent electronic eavesdropping, the company could face fines of up to $50,000 for each violation.

“As the agency charged with overseeing the public airwaves, we are committed to ensuring that the consumers affected by this breach of privacy receive a full and fair accounting,” said Michele Ellison, the chief of the FCC’s enforcement bureau, in a statement.

Google issued a statement yesterday, once again apologizing and promising to work with authorities to answer their questions and concerns.

“As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting all Wi-Fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities. As we assured the F.T.C., which has closed its inquiry, we did not want and have never used the payload data in any of our products and services. We want to delete the data as soon as possible.”

Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas last week suggested in an interview on C-SPAN that Google’s data collection wasn’t accidental as Google claims, and Bloomberg reported the next Congress may question CEO Eric Schmidt.

“The Google thing is very troubling,” Barton said. “There appears to have been a conscious effort to collect information.”

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