FCC Fines Google $25,000 for Impeding Investigation into Data Collection

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The Federal Communications Commission has proposed fining Google $25,000 for impeding its investigation into Google's data collection from non-password protected Wi-Fi networks related to its Street View mapping project, but did not take any action against it for that collection.

      Google says it worked with the FCC, disagrees with the characterization and will be filing a response to the commission.

     Google said it had been a mistake and the FCC concluded it had no precedent for finding Google had violated the commission's rules against unauthorized publication or use of communications. The FCC points out that Google only collected info from non-protected Wi-Fi, and that it said it did nothing with encrypted data it gained in that way. And because the FCC could not compel an interview with a Google engineer, it said it could not determine whether Google had or had not done anything with that encrypted info.

In a notice of apparent liability Friday, the FCC said that it had insufficient evidence for a finding against Google, but was fining it for "deliberately impeding and delaying the bureau's investigation by failing to respond to requests for material information and to provide certifications and verifications of its responses."

The FCC launched its investigation in 2010.

"We worked in good faith to answer the FCC's questions throughout the inquiry, and we're pleased that they have concluded that we complied with the law," said a Google spokesperson late Sunday. "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. We disagree with the FCC's characterization of our cooperation in their investigation and will be filing a response."

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), co-chair of the House privacy caucus, who sought their own answers on Google's Stgreet View, had a mixed reaction to the FCC decision.

"The FCC was correct to fine Google for this breach and to cite the company's recalcitrance in providing timely and comprehensive information in support of the Commission's investigation," he said. "However, I am concerned that more needs to be done to fully investigate the company's understanding of what happened when consumer data was collected without their knowledge or permission. This fine is a mere slap on the wrist for Google. 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 as embodied in its settlement with the FTC."

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