The Federal Communications Commission confirmed to eWEEK that it is looking into whether Google's Street View WiFi data collection broke U.S. communications laws.
The Federal Communications Commission is mulling whether Google broke the
law when its Street View cars captured users' e-mail and passwords in more than
in May that cars that patrol the earth to take images
for the Street View Google Maps feature had collected 600 gigabytes of user
data from unencrypted wireless networks.
However, the company admitted Oct. 23 that, while it originally claimed the
data collected comprised only fragments, whole e-mails, passwords and URLs were,
in fact, collected.
This made it easier for the FCC, which normally does not disclose
information about investigations, to cop to its scrutiny of Google, the agency
"In light of their [Google's] public disclosure, we can now confirm
that the Enforcement Bureau is looking into whether these actions violate the
Communications Act," said Michele Ellison, Enforcement Bureau Chief of the
FCC. "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."
The Wall Street Journal said
the FCC opened an investigation into Street View after
fielding a complaint from the Electronic
Center asking it to investigate
whether Google violated federal law that prevents electronic eavesdropping.
Still, the FCC's investigation is interesting considering that the Federal
Trade Commission closed its investigation
of the so-called "WiSpy"
incident without fining the company.
The agency was satisfied that Google had installed a privacy director and
ordered intensive data privacy and compliance training.
the U.K. also ceased
their investigations without penalizing Google.
The absolutions came after the search company spent the last several months
apologizing and making nice with privacy authorities.
Asked about the FCC inquiry, a Google spokesperson apologized for the
umpteenth time about the WiSpy gaffe, adding that it was a mistake.
"As we assured the FTC, 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 and will continue to
work with the authorities to determine the best way forward, as well as to
answer their further questions and concerns."