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Google being investigated by the FCC for wireless data collection

November 10, 2010 |  3:15 pm

Street The Federal Communications Commission is probing whether Google broke federal laws when its street-mapping service collected consumers' personal information from unsecured wireless networks.

The agency is the latest in a long line of federal and state regulators and lawmakers poking into the possible privacy breach that included the collection of passwords, e-mails and other personal information.

Google has faced even tougher probes outside of the United States in countries were privacy laws are more stringent. Google has said time and again that it collected the information inadvertently.

Last month, the Federal Trade Commission closed its investigation into Google's Street View service. But the controversy has not abated.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) suggested last week on a C-Span program that Google's data collection was not accidental and was something "to look at." Other members of Congress have flagged the issue as they weigh new Internet privacy legislation.

In a statement, Michele Ellison, enforcement bureau chief of the Federal Communications Commission, acknowledged the investigation.

"As the agency charged with overseeing the public airwaves, we are committed to ensuring that the consumers affected by this breach of privacy receive a full and fair accounting," she said.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center asked the FCC to investigate Google in May. The FCC is looking into whether Google violated a federal law that combats electronic eavesdropping.

"What people don't understand: Google Street View is not just about snapping photos, it is also about Google snarfing up an enormous amount of Wi-Fi data. Some of that may have been accidental but a lot of it was purposeful. They were trying to locate, identify and map private Wi-Fi routers," EPIC's president Marc Rotenberg said. "They didn’t call it Wi-Fi data collection, they called it Google Street View. That added to our concern that these vehicles going down the street were kind of like a Trojan horse."

Google said last month that it was "mortified" to learn its Street View cars collected e-mail addresses, passwords and other personal information.

RELATED:

Google's data collection may get new Congress' attention

FTC halts investigation of Google's Street View

Google says Street View cars picked up e-mails, passwords; 'we failed badly'

-- Jessica Guynn

Photos: A Google "Street Views" vehicle in Palo Alto, Calif., last month. Credit: Paul Sakuma/AP Photo

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