Google hits back at FCC over Wi-Fi data collection fine

Summary:Google has escaped a wiretap investigation, but it will keep the permanent black mark against its name for "impeding" an FCC probe, which it was fined $25,000 for.

Despite the FCC forcing Google to settle a fine after it "impeded and delayed" an investigation into its Street View operations, the search giant will avoid a federal investigation into violating U.S. wiretapping laws.

Bloomberg reports that Google filed papers with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where the search giant said the Justice Dept. would "not pursue a case for violation of the Wiretap Act".

Federal prosecutors decided last May that it would wrap up the investigation and call it quits, but it didn't stop Google having to cough up a $25,000 fine for holding back the investigation, which Google said it would pay.

While the search company admits guilt in the case, it added: "Google has cooperated fully with investigations around the globe," but concluded that it wanted to put the matter behind it.

That is, not before taking a few jabs at those who investigated it.

In attempting to map the street-level view of more than 30 countries, the company inadvertently collected wireless data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks as it drove around taking snaps of the routes its car was on. The search company wanted to map the location of these networks to aid location-based service mobile users of its services.

Among many local regulators, the UK's and Germany's data protection agencies both slammed Google for its Wi-Fi data collection, but neither agency imposed a fine.

The company collected emails, passwords, Web browsing history, and all kinds of other data from the unencrypted networks. Google must not have noticed its hard drive storage space filling up so quickly.

While Google shared the FCC's concern about the "protracted nature" of the investigation, Google said, it blamed the FCC for delaying the investigation through its "internal process".

"While Google disagrees with the premise of the (FCC) notice and many of its factual recitals, Google has determined to pay the forfeiture proposed in the notice in order to put this investigation behind it," Google said in a letter signed by Google counsel Ashton Johnston, the AFP news agency reported.

Google said it had "every interest in cooperating and did so fully at all times on a timetable discussed and agreed to by the Commission."

An FCC spokesperson speaking to AP said the agency stands behind its staff and their work.

While $25,000 is 'down the back of the sofa' money to Google, a permanent black mark remains on the company for admitting guilt in delaying the FCC's investigation.

Image credit: CBS Interactive/CNET.

Related:

Topics: Google, Government, Government : US, Wi-Fi

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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