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FCC Fines Google $25,000 in Street Views Investigation

18 Apr, 2012 By: Jackie Jones

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined Google Inc. $25,000 for “deliberately imped(ing) and delay(ing)” the commission’s probe into data collection practices related to the search engine giant’s Street View product, according to an official FCC report.

The FCC is investigating whether the data collected from consumers via Google’s Street View, which provides Internet browsers with 360-degree street-level imagery of places all around the world, violated the Communications Act. Though the FCC did not conclude that Google had violated any laws, the search engine was not cooperative during the process, according to the commission.

“Google deliberately impeded and delayed the Bureau’s investigation by failing to respond to requests for material information and to provide certifications and verifications of its responses,” the FCC wrote in the official report. “We find that Google apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Commission orders to produce certain information and documents that the Commission required for its investigation.”

Google has responded, saying it disagreed with the FCC’s assertion and would file a response. “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,” Google said in a statement.

Google continues to make headlines over its privacy and data collection policies, most recently being sued by California and New York residents alleging that changes to the search engine’s privacy policy violates users’ privacy rights, according to court documents (Response This Week, March 28).

Google enacted a new privacy policy at the beginning of this month, allowing it to effectively “combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services,” according to the company’s official blog. The suits claim the new policy violates several acts, including the Federal Wiretap Act, the Stored Electronic Communications Act and the Computer Fraud Abuse Act.

“(This) violates Google’s prior privacy policies, which deceived and misled consumers by stating that Google would not utilize information provided by a consumer in connection with his or her use of one service, with any other service, for any reason, without the consumer’s consent,” the New York lawsuit contends. “It also violates consumers’ privacy rights, allowing Google to take information from a consumer’s Gmail account and Google+ account, which may have one expectation of privacy and use it in a different context.”

Google has responded to the lawsuits, saying it believes the “cases are without merit,” and that it will “defend them vigorously.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which also investigated Google’s Street View data collection but took no final action, launched a probe into the company in June (Response This Week, June 27, 2011). Though the FTC declined to comment on the exact nature of its subpoena, the investigation is presumed to examine whether Google’s search advertising business violates any federal law by favoring its own sites and abusing its dominance to limit competition in the search engine and advertising market. 

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