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FCC drops Street View privacy case, fines Google $25,000 for impeding investigation

FCC drops Street View privacy case, fines Google $25,000 for impeding investigation


The FCC has dropped its Street View privacy case against Google, but is fining the search giant $25,000 for impeding its investigation.

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Google has been fined $25,000 for impeding an FCC investigation into whether Google violated user privacy by collecting Wi-Fi data during via its Street View project. The investigation revolved around Google intercepting data from its Street View car which provided a snapshot of what users were doing at the time. Google initially denied the capture, then said it was only "fragmented data," before finally admitting that full emails, URLs, and even passwords were intercepted and stored. Data was only captured from open networks with no security. Although the commission found insufficient evidence to take enforcement action, it says that Google was deliberately uncooperative during the investigation.

"Google's level of cooperation with this investigation fell well short of what we expect and require."

The $25,000 fine gravitates around a Google engineer, referred to as "Engineer Doe" throughout the report, who was responsible for coding the software that captured the data. Engineer Doe refused to answer the FCC's questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right through his attorney. The New York Times reports that Google blames Doe for the data collection, saying that he acted without authorization, but Doe says others at the company knew about it. The commission says that because Doe would not testify, "significant factual questions" remain unanswered. According to the report, Google refused to identify employees or produce any emails in response to the FCC's requests.

The current interim report on the commission's site has been extensively censored, and according to The New York Times there are ongoing discussions between the two parties as to how much of the report will be made public. Although the FCC investigation has ended for now, Google is still facing action over the data collection elsewhere, most notably in Germany.