News Analysis: For those who thought Google was absolved of all its data-sucking sins over its Street View WiFi incident, think again.
Privacy advocates for the National Legal and Policy Center claimed U.S. regulators forgave Google due to the search engine's close ties to President Barack Obama's administration.
Google admitted in May its Street View cars had snatched 600 GB of e-mail, passwords and browsing data from thousands of users in countries all over the world for the last three years.
Google apologized and made nice with countries by installing a privacy director and new data-collection rules. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Canada and U.K. gave Google a pass.
The FTC said Oct. 27 it ceased its investigation of the Wi-Spy incident because of Google's improved privacy practices and assurances that it had no plans to use the data it collected.
The FTC's decision came just days after Google discovered Street View collected whole e-mail, passwords and URLs, and after a $30,000-per -person fundraiser for President Obama hosted by Google executive Marissa Mayer at her home.
This proved to be an unacceptable slap on the wrist for the National Legal and Policy Center, which claimed Google was given a pass because of its supposed sway over politicians on Capitol Hill.
NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm wrote this Nov. 9 letter to the House Government Oversight Committee calling for a thorough investigation of Street View and the "FTC's recent conduct during its investigation of the program."
"The growing scandal over Google's Street View operations involves some of the most serious issues of privacy, wiretapping, the close relationship between Google and the Obama Administration and possibly even campaign finance," Boehm wrote in a blog post promoting his letter to Congress.
Comparing Google's relationship to the Obama Administration to Halliburton's coziness with the Bush Administration before it, Boehm also cited Google CEO Eric Schmidt's endorsement of Obama in 2008 before the election put him in the White House.
He also noted that U.S. Deputy Chief CTO Andrew McLaughlin and other former Google employees took jobs with the Obama administration.
"With the FTC's incredible decision not to investigate, consumers must turn to Congress to get to the bottom of these serious privacy violations."
Consumer Watchdog seconded the motion, though for different reasons.
The group asked the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a Nov. 11 letter to hold hearings on Wi-Spy to see whether Google lied about the severity of the Street View data breach.
The group said Eric Schmidt and privacy director Alma Whitten "should testify under oath to provide the America public with the answers it deserves."
NLPC and Watchdog may take heart in the fact that the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. attorneys general in 38 states are continuing their scrutiny of the Wi-Spy gaffe.