Google Fined $25k by FCC for Suspicious Map Data, Consumer Watchdog Wants to Know More

By Ed Silverstein April 17, 2012

The FCC’s decision to fine Google $25,000 because of how it collected data for its Street View mapping feature has raised another issue – insufficient transparency.

A group called “Consumer Watchdog” wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release an “uncensored version” of the text about its decision on Google.

Consumer Watchdog will file a formal freedom of information request to get an uncensored text on the issue. The advocacy group may also take additional legal action.

Google collected e-mails, text messages and other materials for the Street View service from private WiFi networks, according to the FCC. The organization also claims Google did not cooperate with the agency’s investigation, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We find that Google apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Commission (FCC) orders to produce certain information and documents that the Commission required for its investigation,” the FCC said in a statement.

Google says it took the data by accident. The Street View feature collected information in some 30 nations – and the methods used by Google led to outcry in several nations.

Consumer Watchdog suggested the $25,000 fine was minimal for a huge company like Google – even though the FCC says that was the maximum it could fine a business to failing to cooperate with the agency in such an inquiry.

“We’re pleased that the FCC called Google out for its blatantly obstructionist violations, but $25,000 is chump change to an Internet giant like Google,” John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, said in a recent statement. “By willfully violating the Commission’s orders, Google has managed to continue to hide the truth about Wi-Spy. Google wants everyone else’s information to be accessible, but in a demonstration of remarkable hypocrisy, stonewalls and keeps everything about itself secret.”

“Google’s claim that its intrusive behavior was by ‘mistake’ stretches all credulity. In fact, Google has demonstrated a history of pushing the envelope and then apologizing when its overreach is discovered,” Simpson added. “Willfully obstructing a federal investigation shows Google has something to hide. Given its recent record of privacy abuses, there is absolutely no reason to trust anything the Internet giant claims about its data collection policies.”

Meanwhile, circumstances are being evaluated by over 30 state attorney generals in the United States. A related class action lawsuit was also filed in federal court.

In a statement released on Sunday and reported by the Chronicle, Google admitted: "It was a mistake for us to include code in our software that collected payload data, but we believe we did nothing illegal. We have worked with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns."

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Contributor

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