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Congressional Privacy Hawks Not Impressed With Google's FCC Fine Congressional Privacy Hawks Not Impressed With Google's FCC Fine

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Technology / TECHNOLOGY

Congressional Privacy Hawks Not Impressed With Google's FCC Fine

A man passes under the Google sign at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California on January 5, 2010(UPI/Mohammad Kheirkhah)

photo of Josh Smith
April 16, 2012

The Federal Communications Commission proposed fining Google $25,000 for not cooperating with a probe of its collection of private Wi-Fi information, but privacy advocates in Congress said it’s not enough.

“This fine is a mere slap on the wrist for Google,” Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in a statement. “Coupled with the company's recent changes to its privacy policy, it seems as if Google is making a U-turn in its commitment to protect consumer privacy.”

For three years starting in 2007 vehicles collecting information for Google’s Street View project also gathered information from private Wi-Fi networks, including e-mails in some cases. The FCC launched its probe in 2010.

 

Lawmakers who have pressed Google over the breach were not impressed with the FCC’s fine.

While he commended the FCC for levying the fine, Markey said more needs to be done to figure out exactly what Google may have known about the data collection.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who investigated the case when he was Connecticut’s attorney general, agees. 

"I am troubled by the FCC's decision to decline enforcement in the Google Street View case, particularly considering the agency's conclusion that Google initially impeded the agency's attempts to conduct a full investigation," he said in a statement. "Google's failure to initially cooperate undermines their claim and federal agencies' conclusions that they violated no federal laws."

He called on the Justice Department and state attorneys general to investigate further.

Over the weekend the FCC Enforcement Bureau fined the search giant for interfering with its investigation into the privacy breach.

"Google refused to identify any employees or produce any e-mails. The company could not supply compliant declarations without identifying employees it preferred not to identify," the FCC said in an order. "Misconduct of this nature threatens to compromise the commission's ability to effectively investigate possible violations of the Communications Act and the commission's rules."

Google disagreed with the FCC and noted the agency did not rule that Google had done anything wrong. "As the FCC notes in their report, we provided all the materials the regulators felt they needed to conclude their investigation and we were not found to have violated any laws,” the company said in a statement.

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